How the Church Won: An Interview with Jason Stellman

Nov 11th, 2012 | By Bryan Cross | Category: Podcast

Jason Stellman

In July of this year, Jason Stellman wrote a Called To Communion guest post titled “I Fought the Church and the Church Won,” in which he explained briefly why he was becoming Catholic. Last week I had an opportunity to talk with Jason about this paradigm change, and the four years of internal wrestling that preceded it.

 

Download the mp3 by right-clicking here.

Among the articles referred to in the interview is the one he first encountered in 2008, titled “Michael Brown on “Sola Scriptura or Scriptura Solo.” Neal Judisch and I developed this argument in more detail in “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.” Regarding the “tu quoque” reply Jason mentions, see “The Tu Quoque.” The other article Jason mentions in the interview is “The Tradition and the Lexicon.” Also mentioned is Scott Hahn’s Kinship By Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s Saving Promises.

Update: The video of Jason telling his story on EWTN’s The Journey Home can be seen here.

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  1. Hi Bryan! Thanks for conducting and sharing this interview, it was a really good listen.

    Not to just avoid the actual substance of the interview, *but* — the intro and outro chant is really beautiful! Could you tell me what recording you got it from?

    Love to you and your family,
    Kristen W

  2. Thanks Kristen,

    Great to hear from you. The music is from this video of Benedictine Compline. Please say hello to your family for us. We miss you here in the Lou!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  3. A line from Evelyn Waugh’s Life of Edmund Campion seems apropos. Waugh describes the decision that Campion faced during his Oxford days, when he might have chosen timidity rather than courage:

    What he wished was to be left in peace to pursue his own studies, to discharge the duties which soon fell on him as proctor and public orator, to do his best for his pupils. But he was born into the wrong age for these gentle ambitions; he must be either much more, or much less.

    Thank you, Jason, for making your own courageous decision. With God’s good grace, I know that you will become “much more”.

    ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
    Paul Weinhold

  4. Great interview. I was curious about the reaction and status of his immediate family?

  5. Wow, my neck hurts from nodding in agreement and recognition. I still hope you go on the Journey Home Jason, but for me, this podcast was far better because you were able to go into so much more detail, -particularly theological detail- and intramural Reformed detail. I really related to so much of your story. Particularly your desire to see “the case” made for Protestantism, not just why Catholicism is wrong. A million naughty popes don’t make Sola Scriptura suddenly make sense. Like I still keep telling my Protestant family/friends, Sola Scriptura might well be true, but if it is, they should be able to articulate it in a sensible way, and in a way that makes more sense than the Catholic paradigm can.

    I am still waiting.

    Peace bro.

  6. Kirsten #1
    An interesting link for you. The monks of the abbey of Sainte Madelaine, Le Barroux, France invite you to follow live the liturgical offices, entirely sung in Gregorian in the extraordinary form of the Roman Catholic rite.
    http://www.barroux.org/en/liturgie/listen-to-our-offices.html

  7. Thanks for the positive feedback, everyone.

    And yeah, it really was key for me to press my Protestant friends to make a positive case for how exactly things like Sola Scriptura and the Regulative Principle of Worship could have emerged in the immediately post-apostolic Church. I mean, the written content of Paul’s instruction about the Eucharist, when taken together, probably amounted to a measly 5% of the instruction he gave to the churches orally. And it’s not like the second he died, all his hearers suddenly forgot everything he taught them face to face!

    So for SS to be true, the pastor of the church in Corinth would have had to make the announcement: “Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Church of Corinth. For you visitors, be sure to grab some coffee and a doughnut after the service. Bit of bad news, I’m afraid: our beloved Paul has died. Now you’ll notice a drastic change in the way we celebrate the sacrifice of the Eucharist today—I mean, the Lord’s Table. You see, all his countless hours of instruction must be collectively forgotten by all of us from now on, and we must limit ourselves to his two letters he wrote. What’s that? You’re asking why we’re only going by two of the three and discarding the first letter? Well, funny story: in a few hundred years there’s going to be this thing called ‘the canon’ which will tell people which books are inspired and which aren’t, and by that time we’ll have lost that first letter! Sounds crazy, I know. But trust me, our utter confusion will be long forgotten in about 14 centuries.”

  8. Thanks for going into some detail on the doctrinal reasons for making the change. [The recording had some kind of music going on during the interview-(not the intro and ending chant)–it was very light and in the background of the actual interview–I wish you could have filtered it out—other than that it was an enjoyable interview].

    Thanks, Kim

  9. Dear Jason,

    I have listened to this interview. It was interesting to hear in more details how you came to those conclusions that led you to Rome. I admire you for following your convictions irrespective of the consequences (a second time), despite the fact that I disagree with those conclusions. I have two brief remarks about the interview.

    1. Since you talked a lot about how you didn’t find cogent arguments for the Protestant position (esp. of Sola Scriptura) and that criticism of Catholicism could not be a substitute for a positive case for the Protestant paradigm, I expected that your positive arguments for Roman Catholicism as the true alternative would be more weighty and convincing. My impression was, instead, that you poked holes on the Protestant claim, but did not offer a cogent argument for the RC position (arguments like “What if there is a tie among the Twelve?” are far from convincing).

    2. Are you sure you have heard all the good arguments that Protestants offer for their paradigm? Let me recommend a lecture series by Michael Kruger that has some interesting (and I think weighty) arguments for the Protestant view of the canon that Catholics might want to consider, too. Maybe you have heard some of those arguments, but if not, after listening to them you would at least know what kind of arguments your Protestant opponents will bring up next. You can download the lectures from here: http://michaeljkruger.com/lectures/.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  10. Hi Adam,

    I have listened to this interview. It was interesting to hear in more details how you came to those conclusions that led you to Rome. I admire you for following your convictions irrespective of the consequences (a second time), despite the fact that I disagree with those conclusions.

    Köszönöm, testvér.

    Since you talked a lot about how you didn’t find cogent arguments for the Protestant position (esp. of Sola Scriptura) and that criticism of Catholicism could not be a substitute for a positive case for the Protestant paradigm, I expected that your positive arguments for Roman Catholicism as the true alternative would be more weighty and convincing. My impression was, instead, that you poked holes on the Protestant claim, but did not offer a cogent argument for the RC position (arguments like “What if there is a tie among the Twelve?” are far from convincing).

    Well, it took all the self-restraint I had to keep the interview to a manageable length, and it was still well over an hour!

    There’s a sense in which the Catholic version of its own origins need not be defended at all, at least against Protestant objections. Both sides agree that the early church was called “catholic,” and both sides claim to be in agreement with that early catholic church. The Protestant, of course, goes on to claim that this early catholic church became corrupted somewhere along the way and thus lost its authority, but that’s a claim that has the burden of proof.

    That said, I do think a positive case can very easily be made for the basics of Catholic/EO ecclesiology, but like I said, that interview wasn’t really the place to do it because of time restrictions (plus, there’s no better site to find such a case than CTC, which is where my podcast is hosted).

    Are you sure you have heard all the good arguments that Protestants offer for their paradigm? Let me recommend a lecture series by Michael Kruger that has some interesting (and I think weighty) arguments for the Protestant view of the canon that Catholics might want to consider, too. Maybe you have heard some of those arguments, but if not, after listening to them you would at least know what kind of arguments your Protestant opponents will bring up next.

    It is my understanding that Kruger’s book will be reviewed here eventually, but I don’t know the status of it.

    Still, I think any Protestant argument setting forth the rationale for the 27-book NT misses the point. In order for Kruger to land a real blow (and I admit I haven’t read him yet), he’d have to explain how we can trust this particular canonical list given that (1) there are no tests that can be, or were, administered that establish these 27 books and no others, and (2) no church council can determine the 27-book NT with infallible authority.

  11. Dear Jason:
    It was good to hear your story in great detail. Thanks so much for your willingness to put it all out there. I especially appreciated the way in which you did not denigrate your former co-religionists and obviously still have a deep love and respect for them, and that is a witness in and of itself of the grace of God in your life. I was also moved by your comments on how Protestants in general argue about what’s False with Catholicism vs what’s True about Protestantism . Very insightful.
    This interview will go a long way towards helping our Protestant brethren to reconsider the claims of sola scriptura and sola fide. As you said, the hardest part is just getting folks to stop “presupping” the argument before the question is even tossed out there.
    Many people will still attempt to take your words here and claim “you never knew the gospel” or “understood the doctrines of grace”. However, I think you have presented a story that the Holy Spirit will use to open many others’ eyes and hearts. All by His Grace!

    PS: thanks Bryan Cross too for a great interview. I had to drive from Allentown to Philly tonite and it was wonderful way to spend the time. God bless all you guys do on this blog.

  12. AH #6,

    Thanks for posting that link! (http://www.barroux.org/en/liturgie/listen-to-our-offices.html) What a treasure to be able to listen as though we were there. For the pace of my life and the weight of its responsibilities, it’s an absolute joy to be able to step out for a few moments of meditative audition to the sounds of eternal worship.

    It’s pearls like these that shouldn’t be tossed before swine, but speaking as a hungry piggy, I’m grateful whenever I find one – Beatific Vision isn’t just for the eyes!

    Pax Christi.

  13. David #12
    More divine worship from Le Barroux, France.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alj4htzde8A

  14. Hello Jason,

    I appreciated you taking the time to do this interview, and I found that it was very helpful in understanding your current position and move to the RCC. There was a couple things I have read in your blog and heard from this interview that I did have a question about.

    1. It seems that there is too narrow of a definition that you impute(hah!) to the reformed understanding of righteousness when you limit it to Justification/Sanctification categories. There are some, such as Meredithe Kline in his book “Kingdom Prologue,” that also see a person’s righteousness (speaking of OT saints such as David, Noah, etc) in a typological in pointing the Righteous Son of God. And that god was pleased to use these imperfect and still sinful men to point forward to the one that would be the spotless lamb of God. Would you see this use of righteousness as fitting in the reformed paradigm?

    2. This may seem like a silly question, but what is the significance of Christ law-keeping for the believer today? I understand that he must be the True Adam/Israel, but what benefit is that to the Christian today(if any)? I guess what I’m trying to get at is why couldn’t he be laser beamed to the cross to die for our sins, raise and ascend to heaven, then pour out the Spirit upon us to get he ball rollin for our grace driven, NC Holy Spirit empowering law-keeping?

    Thanks for your willingness!

    PS. I do recommend Krugers new book, and would love to here your thoughts on his explanation of the Holy Spirits internal witness (since your a big Holy Spirit guy! Is your paper seminary paper online?) within the self-authenticating model of scripture.

  15. Hi Daniel,

    1. It seems that there is too narrow of a definition that you impute (hah!) to the reformed understanding of righteousness when you limit it to Justification/Sanctification categories. There are some, such as Meredithe Kline in his book “Kingdom Prologue,” that also see a person’s righteousness (speaking of OT saints such as David, Noah, etc) in a typological in pointing the Righteous Son of God. And that god was pleased to use these imperfect and still sinful men to point forward to the one that would be the spotless lamb of God. Would you see this use of righteousness as fitting in the reformed paradigm?

    Yeah, I have read Kingdom Prologue a couple times, there’s some amazing stuff in there. Kline’s position on, say, David’s righteousness is that whenever the OT describes his uprightness and integrity, he is being used as a type of Christ, the Son of David and true King of kings.

    While I don’t necessarily disagree with Kline’s typology, I do find it severely limiting to the text. There are many examples in both testaments in which people are described as “righteous,” but it is their obedience that is appealed to to substantiate the description. Now Kline would surely couch this in Mosaic and typological terms (horizontally righteous), but I think it is due to a paradigm according to which no person can truly be righteous in this life. But of course, that is not a neutral assumption, since the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law. So it seems to me that Kline rightly wants to see Christ in those passages, but he doesn’t go as far as the text demands.

    2. This may seem like a silly question, but what is the significance of Christ law-keeping for the believer today? I understand that he must be the True Adam/Israel, but what benefit is that to the Christian today(if any)? I guess what I’m trying to get at is why couldn’t he be laser beamed to the cross to die for our sins, raise and ascend to heaven, then pour out the Spirit upon us to get he ball rollin for our grace driven, NC Holy Spirit empowering law-keeping? Thanks for your willingness!

    If Jesus is a sacrifice, then it is his entire life that constitutes that sacrifice, and not only the last six hours of it. He needed to enter willingly into our estate and “fulfill all righteousness.” That’s one of the reasons ancient depictions of Jesus often represent him as an infant in his Mother’s arms (not just because that’s the Jesus Ricky Bobby liked best). Even in his infancy he was being humiliated—in fact, especially then. So the CC, just like the Reformed, emphasize the life of Christ and not just his death. The difference is that Rome’s gospel is greater since Jesus’ sacrificial life is not just imputed from without, but is something in which we sacramentally and mystically participate.

    PS. I do recommend Krugers new book, and would love to here your thoughts on his explanation of the Holy Spirits internal witness (since your a big Holy Spirit guy! Is your paper seminary paper online?) within the self-authenticating model of scripture.

    I would recommend Tom’s paper here on the Canon question (and I think there’s a review of Kruger in the works, but I’m not sure of its status).

    And no, my Holy Spirit paper is not currently online (although I sum up parts of it in the chapter of Dual Citizens that focuses on Rom. 6:14).

  16. Jason,

    “The difference is that Rome’s gospel is greater since Jesus’ sacrificial life is not just imputed from without, but is something in which we sacramentally and mystically participate.”

    I think the reformed position does not just limit the gospel to justification in that although we believe that before the justice of God, only the Righteousness of Christ is accepted in our behalf to justify sinners, we also believe that we participate in Christ’s sacrifice when we are changed internally in sanctification and glorification. So in the eyes of the reformed, it is Rome’s gospel that is deficient such that Jesus’ sacrificial life is only participated upon in the sacraments which participation is dependent on man’s free choice and cut-off at the presence of mortal sins or accumulated venial sins which then can be regained when doing penance. In other words, it’s effectiveness is dependent upon the sinners efforts (cooperation) while the reformed conception covers not just the satisfaction of justice in the Righteousness of Christ during justification but the imitation of that justice effectively in the lives of the saints in sanctification and glorification.

    Regards,
    Joey

  17. That’s one of the reasons ancient depictions of Jesus often represent him as an infant in his Mother’s arms (not just because that’s the Jesus Ricky Bobby liked best).

    JJS keeps it real. Classic.

  18. So in the eyes of the reformed, it is Rome’s gospel that is deficient such that Jesus’ sacrificial life is only participated upon in the sacraments which participation is dependent on man’s free choice

    Why is the gospel deficient when participation is dependent on man’s free choice to reject or cooperate with God’s grace?

    Doesn’t the apostle say we are justified by grace through faith? Are you saying that in a “non-deficient” gospel, it should be possible to have “living” faith and yet not cooperate with His grace?

  19. Joey,

    I wrote, “The difference is that Rome’s gospel is greater since Jesus’ sacrificial life is not just imputed from without, but is something in which we sacramentally and mystically participate.” And you responded:

    I think the reformed position does not just limit the gospel to justification in that although we believe that before the justice of God, only the Righteousness of Christ is accepted in our behalf to justify sinners, we also believe that we participate in Christ’s sacrifice when we are changed internally in sanctification and glorification.

    Yes, I understand that the Reformed position includes sanctification along with justification. However, in the Reformed system sanctification is a mere afterthought or concession, in my opinion. The Reformed confessions go out of their way to insist that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant, and that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness. Moreover, since in justification all our past, present, and future sins are forgiven (in the Reformed system), sanctification virtually becomes an optional response.

    So while you’re technically correct that the Reformed gospel doesn’t limit things to justification, I think in practice it in fact does.

    So in the eyes of the reformed, it is Rome’s gospel that is deficient such that Jesus’ sacrificial life is only participated upon in the sacraments which participation is dependent on man’s free choice and cut-off at the presence of mortal sins or accumulated venial sins which then can be regained when doing penance. In other words, it’s effectiveness is dependent upon the sinners efforts (cooperation) while the reformed conception covers not just the satisfaction of justice in the Righteousness of Christ during justification but the imitation of that justice effectively in the lives of the saints in sanctification and glorification.

    It is apparent that you are merely evaluating the Catholic position from the standpoint of the Reformed one. Insisting that Rome’s gospel is “dependent on our cooperation” (and meaning this as a drawback) only makes sense if redemption is a zero-sum game, and if God is not a Father who delights in reproducing his divine image in his adopted children, thus enabling them to participate in the work of Jesus, who “does the things he sees the Father doing.”

    What I’m saying is that if Reformed people are going to balk at cooperation, then at least be consistent and deny the need for cross-bearing, interceding for others, and preaching the gospel. All of those things (we would all agree) are examples of the Father graciously enabling us to share in Jesus’ work (cooperation).

  20. Jason and Joey,

    I was speaking recently with a friend who works on sixteenth-century theology, and he finally helped me understand the difficulty of nailing down the Reformed view of sanctification. On the Reformed telling, for a work to qualify as righteous, it must be done with absolute angelic perfection, for absolutely pure motives. Anything less is damnable. And for a person to qualify as righteous, all his works must meet those criteria. This requirement is “taken care of” on the justification side of things by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. I don’t imagine that this is news to anyone reading here. But this means that the Reformed enjoy a kind of limitless flexibility when speaking on the sanctification side. Because the justification bar has been set infinitely high, one can wax gloriously about the reality of sanctification in the life of the believer, and then–in the next breath, if need be–wane condemnatory about how infinitely far below God’s standard such sanctification-righteousness falls.

    In the end, I think Jason is quite right. But the above has helped me understand the communication breakdowns that always seem to take place on this issue. For goodness sake, I must have read the WCF on sanctification two dozen times. It’s not the most perspicuous passage I’ve ever read (wink). And I’m open, naturally, to corrections from either of you.

    Also, Joey, a minor correction: no accumulation of venial sins can snuff out sanctifying grace, though they weaken charity and so make one more vulnerable to committing mortal sin.

    best,
    John

  21. Jason,

    Bryan said during the interview “It’s one thing to reject sola fide and sola scriptura, but quite another to embrace the fullness of the Catholic Church.” I feel therein is the weakest link in your reasoning: you begin well by departing from calvinism and the reformed, but end with gigantic non sequitur, in my view at least..Like you I reject sola fide/scriptura and also believe that there is no principled difference between solo and sola scripture, both are equally illogical and irrational. Nevertheless the leap to the CC of today cannot be supported on both a Scriptural and patristic basis.

    During the interview you appealed to apostolic succession for example. I was surprised by that given your mention of the Tu Quoque earlier. Are you not in a Tu Quoque of your own by joining the CC but yet rejecting the Orthodox? Both claim apostolic succession, so where do you draw the line? I thought your response there was muddled and revealed key vulnerabilities. You are appealing to a big, visible church that everyone knows Christ founded. Well, the truth is that the Pharisees in their day also had a big, visible ‘church’ that everyone knew God had founded through Moses. And how did Christ respond to them? He dismantled their claims pretty fast didn’t He? And on what basis? We are getting to that… My point is that apostolic succession cannot in and of itself even begin to prove sufficient to settle the argument I’m afraid. There is no compulsion in love and none in grace either; catholics like to remind us of that when discussing the nature of salvation and the conditional security of the believer and they are right! The irony however, is that they fail to recognize that apostasy does not just happen with the individual but can also happen corporately. Isn’t this why Christ urges 5 of the 7 churches in Asia Minor to repent and turn from their wickedness? Don’t they have apostolic succession? Yes, they do. Then of what use is to them if they are not overcomers and bearing fruit worthy of those who have been washed and sanctified by the Savior? Likewise, did not Christ Himself and His disciples emerge as a minority against the establishment of the Pharisees who had all the apostolic succession in the world to boast about? The epistemological delineator has to be FRUIT, not pedigree. Even pagans recognize this and ridicule us for as much.

    Likewise, merely appealing to the originators of the Canon to settle a choice cannot suffice logically. What do you do with the fact that Elizabeth and Zecharias were considered blameless and righteous without a canon? What about the faithful in the 1st century who were persecuted for their faith and yet were righteous in Christ’s sight (see His words to them in Rev 2, 3), all without a canon? By extension, could it be that today there are believers who are walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the requirement of the law but who are in churches which did not produce the canon?

    I do not say that Catholics are not Christians, unlike Protestants or vice versa, but I call both to repentance to return to the faith of the apostolic fathers who not only had the succession, but also the fruit that supports and VALIDATES that succession epistemologically and experientially. We can see this in Christ’s words to the church at Smyrna and Philadelphia and even some at Sardis. The only reason I am not in communion with the CC, or the OC and no longer a Protestant ( I also 100% reject extra nos imputation) is simply because there is great need for repentance within all 3 branches. What is the solution then and how does being separate help instead of worsening the division? I believe that this a case of “reculer pour mieux sauter”. The separation on my part is reluctant and painful and not out of condemnation, but a desire to see a church re-united, faithful, humbled, repentant, fruitful above all. But how is this possible when so much division abounds theologically and otherwise?

    The faith of the Apostolic Fathers provides us with possibly a unique opportunity to come together as christians of different stripes. Even Justo Gonzalez, the methodist minister and historian recognizes that they were remarkably united in their doctrine. Moroever, I believe Peter Leithart is absolutely right when he says that one of the greatest sins is the division of the church. And the faith of the AF provides us with an opening to each put aside our great sins and mistakes, and coalesce around a united doctrine, as the AF were united, not for the only sake of unity but in order to be found spotless and without blame at the return of Christ, that has to be the greater goal. But of course, everyone would have to sacrifice some dearly held beliefs. The baptist /reformed for example would have to give up once saved always saved/perservance of the saints (as I did) and embrace sanctification/theosis as salvation instead of solely clinging to justification and making sanctification optional. The EO and Catholic would have to give up icon veneration or at the very minimum their mandatory use as well as ideas such as the assumption of Mary. There is not a single shred of evidence for the veneration of icons or Mary in the writing of AF. The CC would have to repent of its cover up of child abuse and immorality within its ranks, The pentecostal would have to give up his attachment to outward manifestations and instead embrace the simple liturgy of the first believers and so on, including the real presence. Protestant prosperity preachers would have to give up their feel good gospel for the real gospel which involves self denial and the narrow door but also the joy of having the real interior abundant life.

    I realize this will be seen as naive, wishful thinking, unrealistic, perhaps even offensive (although the latter is not my intention by any means, so please forgive me, a sinner.) But so was the idea that Jews and Gentiles would sit at a common table and be accepted of God before the Gospel of Christ broke into the world 2000 years ago.

    Peace,
    SS

  22. Jason, you say: “the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law.”

    So why is there still a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory?

  23. SS,

    Bryan said during the interview “It’s one thing to reject sola fide and sola scriptura, but quite another to embrace the fullness of the Catholic Church.” I feel therein is the weakest link in your reasoning: you begin well by departing from calvinism and the reformed, but end with gigantic non sequitur, in my view at least..Like you I reject sola fide/scriptura and also believe that there is no principled difference between solo and sola scripture, both are equally illogical and irrational. Nevertheless the leap to the CC of today cannot be supported on both a Scriptural and patristic basis.

    Well, I agree that what I offered there is nowhere close to a robust defense of Rome over Constantinople. But then, by that point we were around 45 minutes into the interview, so you’ll have to pardon me for being somewhat abbreviative!

    During the interview you appealed to apostolic succession for example. I was surprised by that given your mention of the Tu Quoque earlier. Are you not in a Tu Quoque of your own by joining the CC but yet rejecting the Orthodox? Both claim apostolic succession, so where do you draw the line? I thought your response there was muddled and revealed key vulnerabilities. You are appealing to a big, visible church that everyone knows Christ founded. Well, the truth is that the Pharisees in their day also had a big, visible ‘church’ that everyone knew God had founded through Moses. And how did Christ respond to them? He dismantled their claims pretty fast didn’t He? And on what basis? We are getting to that… My point is that apostolic succession cannot in and of itself even begin to prove sufficient to settle the argument I’m afraid.

    I’m pretty sure I not only appealed to apostolic succession, but also to the primacy of Peter in particular. Like I said above, my intent was not to get into all the intricacies of the CC/EO debate, but simply to answer how I went from the rejection of SS/SF to joining the Catholic Church. In my response, I said that there was never any other viable option for me since logic itself seems to dictate that if Jesus was going to bother founding a visible church, he would have done so in a way that made finding it easier and less subjective than its agreement with my own interpretation of the authoritative sources, be they the Bible or Tradition.

    This is why the Magisterium is the necessary third leg of this stool, in my mind. For the Orthodox, the church is defined in terms of being true to the Dogmas and the Tradition. That’s all fine, but at the end of the day who gets to make that determination?

    I will say this, though: If I ever get around to writing a book on this issue, I am hereby laying claim to the title Rome/EO, Rome/EO: Wherefore Art Thou, Rome/EO?.

    Likewise, merely appealing to the originators of the Canon to settle a choice cannot suffice logically. What do you do with the fact that Elizabeth and Zecharias were considered blameless and righteous without a canon? What about the faithful in the 1st century who were persecuted for their faith and yet were righteous in Christ’s sight (see His words to them in Rev 2, 3), all without a canon? By extension, could it be that today there are believers who are walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the requirement of the law but who are in churches which did not produce the canon?

    Forgive me, but I don’t remember appealing to the canon in order to justify my becoming Catholic.

  24. Adam,

    Jason, you say: “the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law.”

    So why is there still a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory?

    I think to say that there is a “need” for the treasury of merits sort of misses the point (kind of like your daughter asking why you insist upon being bountiful with your blessings toward her even though her other siblings are better behaved than she is). God shares the family wealth with his children, even when we are less deserving of it than our brothers and sisters in Christ. God delights in being reckless and abundant, as I pointed out here:

    http://www.creedcodecult.com/divine-delight-in-the-useless-and-unnecessary/

    As for purgatory, it is simply the final purging away of the clinging temporal effects of the faithful’s venial sins by the fire of God’s love. It’s not about treading water holding a bowling ball over our head for a million years.

  25. PS – Bryan may want to jump in here with a more technical answer.

  26. Jason,

    However, in the Reformed system sanctification is a mere afterthought or concession, in my opinion. The Reformed confessions go out of their way to insist that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant, and that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness. Moreover, since in justification all our past, present, and future sins are forgiven (in the Reformed system), sanctification virtually becomes an optional response.

    I think the opinion is baseless. I am not sure what confession says “that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant”. What confession are you referring to? Perhaps, what you mean to say is “insignificant in context of meriting justification but not in the context of sanctification”. The reformed has always upheld that those who are justified in Christ will be sanctified as it is part of God’s salvific work to rid the believer of the power of sin. Thus only those who are truly justified, having the Righteousness of Christ, can truly live out that verdict of not guilty showing forth a pattern of life in the likeness of the Savior. Sanctification is not to be seen as a “progress we make” but the act of God in His people, making them abound with fruits of righteousness. God will not fail to do this among those whom He has justified. So that, it is God’s progress and creation work in the life of the saint not the progress that we make. But the righteous life that is changed by God is not the ground of justification but the result of it. God accepted us and reverses His verdict of condemnation only because of what Jesus Christ did in behalf of the sinner in the cross.

    The second part on which you say, “that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness” should be put in context also. The insufficiency of good works and its imperfection should be seen in the context of justification. You now see good works as meritorious gaining the increace of justice so that in the final judgment you’ll have a righteousness borne by your efforts to cooperate with grace and successful battle to avoid mortal sins ( and if ever, perform penances). The question now in your perspective is whether “good works” can be meritorious to gain justification and the increase thereof? The reformed will answer, “No. Good works done by sinners will never be meritorious because they are tainted with sin. Only the Righteousness of Christ has merit for the sinner when God made Him who has no sin to be sin in our behalf that we might be the righteousness of God in Him.” So, we have to put this in context. Our good works is not the payment for sin as it can’t pay nor qualify to pay or merit for our sin. Therefore good works, because of sin, will never be enough. But affirming this does not negate the fact that those who are justified and consequently transformed in Christ’s image, abounding in the fruits of the Holy Spirit, have ‘good/righteous works’ and that it pleases the Lord who effectively/without fail cause that internal righteousness to abound.

    In Reformed theology, good works are seen as good and righteous as this is part of the creative power of God in transforming the image of His Son. But, it is not the righteousness that earns/merits our justification. No matter how grand our good works are, it can not pay for our sins nor reverse the verdict of condemnation to the sons of Adam. Thus, our good works do not qualify nor have any value on the bar of justice to a God who is supremely holy. We can only abandon ourselves to the Savior and to His Righteousness alone. But, it does not mean that those who are justified by the Righteousness of Christ will fail to exhibit the transforming power of God when He progressively sanctify them. It also does not mean that the progress of sanctification mean nothing God as it is His pleasure to change the believer into the image of His Son. As He works, He takes pleasure in it just like when He sees His creation in the 7th day and declared that it is good so it is true that God takes pleasure in creating the image of Son in the lives of those whom He justified by the blood of His Son through faith.

    So while you’re technically correct that the Reformed gospel doesn’t limit things to justification, I think in practice it in fact does.

    I can line up several saints who embraces the biblical gospel and showed fruits of righteousness in order to discredit your claim. In practice, it is the reformed perspective that is transformative but the Roman gospel is not. Would you want to see a statistics on how many Roman Catholics, though attending mass and eating the eucharist live a life of unrighteousness and believe contrary doctrines to what your church taught? I don’t think in practice reformed folks limit things to justification. On the contrary, it is Rome’s gospel that has ineffectively transformed a major portion of its fold even though it claims to have the real flesh and blood of Christ that when eaten physically increases their righteousness.

    It is apparent that you are merely evaluating the Catholic position from the standpoint of the Reformed one.

    I am not sure how philosophically, we can evaluate things by going out of our own worldview. In fact, Jason, this works both ways. You are also evaluating the Reformed in the Catholic position, and you know it. Is that bad?

    Insisting that Rome’s gospel is “dependent on our cooperation” (and meaning this as a drawback) only makes sense if redemption is a zero-sum game, and if God is not a Father who delights in reproducing his divine image in his adopted children, thus enabling them to participate in the work of Jesus, who “does the things he sees the Father doing.”

    Well, Rome’s gospel is dependent on our cooperation. Trent has said that. The gospel of Rome only makes redemption a possibility. It saved no one but everyone can be saved only if all the conditions of cooperation are followed. Those who have enough cooperation after baptism can enjoy the hope of beatific vision but not until one has fully given satisfaction of temporal guilt in the pains of purgatory because after we die we are not that perfect yet to deserve eternal bliss. People who are still living can aide us, anyhow, through their good works by offering up mass for us or dedicating good works to our souls since we can not merit righteousness (and since our righteousness does not measure up yet for the beatific vision) in purgatory. Of course, the character of God portrayed in this narrative is a God who takes pleasure in seeing cooperation. But this is far from the God, Jesus and His Apostles, proclaimed in His the Scriptures.

    What I’m saying is that if Reformed people are going to balk at cooperation, then at least be consistent and deny the need for cross-bearing, interceding for others, and preaching the gospel. All of those things (we would all agree) are examples of the Father graciously enabling us to share in Jesus’ work (cooperation).

    Jason, you know in your heart that we have been consistent. We deny that our cross-bearing, interceding for others and preaching the gospel are our righteousness that justifies us. We can only plead the Righteousness of Christ. We balk at cooperation only when it is a cooperation that is seen as a merit for justification. Both of us knows believe in “cooperation” – but what kind, and to what purpose? In your worldview, the Father graciously allowed you to share in Jesus’ work because Jesus’ work only made you savable. That sharing is your effort of achieving righteousness righteosness and increase it, avoid mortal sin, do penance if mortal sin is done, lessen venial sins to avoid prolonged stay in purgatory so that there is less atoning that you will have to do for the sins you’ve commited and pray hard that someone on earth will offer for you masses in order to be “fully” justified. We can coaxed this scheme with “participation” and “cooperation” and “sharing” — but ultimately, since this is done by your autonomous free will, then this is your work, your effort to be righteous. Jesus work only made it possible for your efforts to be accepted but did not Jesus work did not count as your righteousness.

    In conclusion, the reformed gospel has everything Rome has claim. Rome claims the advantage that their gospel changes the person inside not just an extra nos work done for the believer. In actuality, the reformed and biblical gospel teaches both. While rome droped one aspect, the reformed accepted both. We are justified only because of Christ’s Righteousness and we are internally changed by the power of God in sanctification. The reformed gospel is fuller and richer than what Rome has to offer. I would say, the reformed gospel is the biblical gospel.

    Regards,
    Joey

  27. John,

    Also, Joey, a minor correction: no accumulation of venial sins can snuff out sanctifying grace, though they weaken charity and so make one more vulnerable to committing mortal sin.

    There’s no magisterial statement on your assertion above. There is a theological opinion floating around (acceptable) that theorizes that venial sin accumulated can be mortal.

    The mere multiplication of venial sins does not of itself change the species of the sin. A thousand venial sins do not equal a single mortal sin. Nevertheless, a venial sin could become a mortal sin for any one of the following reasons:

    a) Because of an erroneous conscience or a seriously doubtful conscience concerning the grave malice of a deliberate act. Thus he who erroneously believes that an action which is objectively only venially sinful is a mortal sin would commit a mortal sin if he performed that action. One would also commit a mortal sin in performing an action if he has serious doubts as to whether or not it is a mortal sin or only a venial sin, for one is obliged to solve such a doubt before performing the action.

    b) By reason of an end which is gravely evil, as would occur if one per­forms an act which is a light sin for the purpose of causing another to com­mit a serious sin.

    c) By reason of the proximate danger of falling into mortal sin if one com­mits a particular venial sin, as would be the case if one were to let himself become angry when he knows that he will very likely end by inflicting grave damage or injury on his neighbour.

    d) By reason of the grave scandal which would be occasioned by the com­mission of a light sin, e.g., if a venial sin committed by a priest were to become the occasion of a serious sin on the part of a layman.

    e) By formal contempt of a law which binds under light obligation. Con­tempt is called formal if it is directed against authority as such; it is called material if is directed to some other element, such as a disdain for the thing forbidden because one thinks it is of little importance.

    f) By the accumulation of material which may increase until it is grave matter.

    Note the last part.

    Regards,
    Joey

  28. Joey,

    Yes, I’m familiar with the conditions (a)-(f) described above by which a venial sin may become mortal. But that’s the point: it becomes mortal. These situations qualify but do not change the opening statement, “A thousand venial sins do not equal a single mortal sin.” As to condition (f), notice that it is the accumulation of material that can make the sin grave, not the accumulation of venial sins as such. I know that’s a fine distinction, but it’s important. Otherwise (f) simply contradicts rather than qualifies the point that a thousand venial sins does not make a mortal sin, which is the only point I was trying to make.

    Here’s an example: a chronic refusal to give relief to the needy through almsgiving–in other words, a deep-seated refusal of fraternal mercy–is gravely sinful matter. But how do you get there? Naturally, there will be a series of venial sins of stinginess. It is not those moments of stinginess–the venial sins–that add up to a mortal sin. It is the accumulation of the material of the sin over a long period of time that constitutes grave matter. That seems to me the natural reading of (f), unless the whole paragraph is nonsense. Thanks, though, for bringing this up. I appreciate the occasion for clarity and precision.

    best,
    John

  29. Ádám (re: #22)

    You wrote:

    Jason, you say: “the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law.”

    So why is there still a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory?

    Strictly speaking, as Jason said, there is no “need” for the treasury of merit, as though no one could be saved without there being a treasury of merit to which persons other than Christ contribute. The treasury of merit by which saints are able to aid others in the Body of Christ is itself Christ’s gift, allowing others to participate in His redemptive work, and allowing still others to benefit from fellow members in the Body of Christ in this way. But I think that’s not exactly what you’re intending to ask in your question. I suspect that to make your question more specific you would say something like this:

    If agape truly fulfills the law, then why does any believer who has received agape need to receive merit from anywhere, and still need to be purified upon death? It appears that agape has not truly fulfilled the law, if any additional merit is needed from any source, or if any additional purification or penance is needed.

    The answer to this question requires explaining the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and the basis for that distinction. I’ve explained the distinction in “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin.” The answer also requires explaining the distinction between eternal punishment and temporal punishment, and the basis for that distinction. I’ve explained that (if you follow the links carefully) at “Indulgences, the Treasury of Merit, and the Communion of Saints.”

    So what I will say next presupposes that you’ve read and understood those explanations. At baptism, all the debt of eternal and temporal punishment is removed. But venial sin committed after baptism accrues a debt of temporal punishment. If after baptism one commits a mortal sin, and then repents, confesses and receives the sacrament of reconciliation, one also accrues a debt of temporal punishment. Absolution in the confessional does not remove the debt of temporal punishment. If a person never committed any mortal or venial sin after baptism, he would not need any aid from the treasury of merit or need to go to purgatory. So agape fulfills the law, but the believer, having free choice, does not always live in accordance with agape. If he commits a mortal sin, he acts directly in opposition to agape, and so obviously does not fulfill the law, but violates the law. If he commits a venial sin, he acts not directly against agape, and so not directly against the law, but neither does he act in perfect conformity to agape, and thus not in perfect conformity to the agape by which the law is fulfilled. So the short answer to your question “If infused love fulfills the law, then why the treasury of merit and purgatory?” is “Because we choose to sin, not always living according to the agape within us.” This answer, however, will be entirely unsatisfactory unless you grasp the basis for the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and the basis for the distinction between temporal and eternal punishment. Otherwise you will conclude either that agape does not fulfill the law, since if it did there could be no post mortem punishment at all, or that if agape fulfills the law, then believers do not receive agape, but only some imperfect form or portion of agape. See the discussion in the comments following “Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply To Nicholas Batzig.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. Re: Joey Henry #26

    I think you misunderstand the difference between “initial justification” and “increase in justification” in Catholic theology. There is no “increase in justification” or “merit” until a believer is first justified. And that initial gift of justification is “not” earned by good works. Nothing other than Christ’s sacrifice of love has sufficient merit to atone for and justify the unjust.

    Rather than thinking about justification as a glass which starts out empty and must be full, think of it like a living seed which is first sown and subsequently grows. A person is justified before God when the living seed is planted in fertile soil. There is nothing a person can do to “earn” life, because the life itself is a gift of God.

    “Increase in justification” happens as the seed sprouts, grows, and bears good fruit. When good fruit is produced, that is “merit”. But the good fruit doesn’t help the plant go from “not living” to “living”. The fruit is the result of the gift of life. The more abundant the life, the more abundant the fruit.

    The bottom line is that, when the final judgment comes around, God and we will be pleased by the good things we have done out of love for him. But we will be grateful to Him alone for the gift of life which enabled us to love him in the first place.

    Hope this helps,
    Jonathan

  31. Joey,

    I ask this in all seriousness and not to antagonize you: do you think Calvin was sanctified? The same Calvin who burned Servetus at the stake and reveled in it? A few other things for you to think about:

    1. There is no compulsion in grace and its presence in sanctification, if there were, it would no longer be grace.
    2. Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.
    3. None who is truly cooperating with grace in making every effort to be holy (Heb 12:14) is claiming any merit (Luke 17:10).

    The reformers made a mistake of epic proportions when they failed to understand that charis in the biblical sense inherently invokes the reality of God as our patron/benefactor. As a patron, He justifies freely and yes, that is indeed cause for rejoicing! But this is what the reformers failed to see: as our Patron/Benefactor, God requires that we be fruitful with that grace! See John 15:1-6 or the parable of the sower, or the parable of the fig tree for example. It is fully our duty (see Luke 17:10), borne out of love for Him and our neighbor to seek the holiness without which no one will see the Lord and failing which we should we produce thorns and briars we will fall into the hands of the living God. And yet we are not coerced by His Spirit into this process of sanctification, it is our response to make. Some believe for a while and but then fail to put down roots or are choked by the world and fall away. As Jason has pointed out, Paul himself emphasizes that if we walk by the flesh, we die. On the other hand, if we walk by the Spirit, we are fulfilling in us the righteous requirement of the law. But make no mistake, it our choice to make, even after we have been justified. There is no compulsion in grace. The Apostolic Fathers understood this very well, and reformers ought to reconsider their view of them. TF Torrance was massively wrong in his analysis of the doctrine of grace in the AF. His theological grid had no room for the patron/benefactor/suzerain-vassal covenant relationship which Christ came to institute. But they understood it and ther writing is proof of that.

  32. SS,

    Nothing you wrote prove that the reformed failed in epic proportion to your “patron/benefactor” schema. In fact, God commands us to be fruitful, yes. We are not coerced in anyway that we bear fruit, yes. All of these is affirmed by the reformed. There’s a third one, God will not fail to glorify those whom He has justified (Romans 8:30). It doesn’t mean we don’t sin, but that God prevails over our sin and our desire to sin by effectively (and without fail) transforming us.

    The Catholic schema however allows for people who were justified accordingly but was not finally glorified. The schema of course can not escape the conclusion that, in the final analysis, what gives effectivity to the salvation of Christ is man’s free choice and cooperation. In other words, God did not effectively save anyone. He only made men potentially savable by giving them opportunities to cooperate enough with the requirements He has set.

    Perhaps you allude to Romans 8:3-4 when you said, “On the other hand, if we walk by the Spirit, we are fulfilling in us the righteous requirement of the law.” Here’s the passage:

    For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    That word, “so that” is very important. It was God who achieved what the law requires. The Law could not make us righteous because we are in the flesh. How did He achieved it? Clearly, it is an extra nos work of substitution. The Scripture tells us this was done, BY sending his own Son taking on our sinful flesh and condemn sin in that flesh. He did that SO THAT the righteous requirment of the law may be fulfilled in us. Who fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law? God. How? By sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh then condemning sin in that flesh. Who are the recepients? How do we identify them? Answer: those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    In other words, the last clause is descriptive not the condition of fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law. There is no, “if” clause there. It only describes the people who are recepients of that fulfillment.

    God bless,
    Joey

  33. Jason and Bryan,

    I think what the treasury of merits and purgatory point toward is that, just like in Protestant theology, in the Catholic system there is 1) some kind of alien (extra nos) righteousness (the merits of other saints) and 2) a need for perfection (final purging from veniel sins because of our imperfection in agape). This makes Jason’s case extremely vulnerable.

  34. Joey (#32):

    You write:

    The Catholic schema however allows for people who were justified accordingly but was not finally glorified. The schema of course can not escape the conclusion that, in the final analysis, what gives effectivity to the salvation of Christ is man’s free choice and cooperation. In other words, God did not effectively save anyone. He only made men potentially savable by giving them opportunities to cooperate enough with the requirements He has set.

    That criticism assumes that God only saves people “effectively” if his will leaves them no choice but final salvation. In other words, it assumes monergism. That assumption begs the question.

    To get off the dime here, you need to consider a different paradigm in Scripture itself, and do so on its own terms. 2 Peter 3-4 reads:

    His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

    Salvation, then, consists in becoming a partaker of the divine nature. That means becoming by adoption what God is by nature; the Greek word for that is theosis, “divinization.” Since God is free, divinization does not override our freedom, but frees it from slavery to sin. Thus it is only when we have become partakers of the divine nature by baptism that we are free to follow the two great commandments of love–or not. That does not mean we earn grace by our own power of free choice; it means that our own power of free choice is enabled, by God’s unmerited communication of his own nature, to choose as God wills within us, and thus to partake of the divine nature. Being finally saved, therefore, does not displace our freedom but restores it–if we would but have it so.

    That is synergism, not monergism. Synergism is both biblical and patristic.

    Best,
    Mike

  35. Ádám, (re: #33)

    You wrote:

    I think what the treasury of merits and purgatory point toward is that, just like in Protestant theology, in the Catholic system there is 1) some kind of alien (extra nos) righteousness (the merits of other saints)

    You’re confusing the paying of a debt of punishment by way of satisfaction, and the extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness. The two are not the same.

    and 2) a need for perfection (final purging from veniel sins because of our imperfection in agape). This makes Jason’s case extremely vulnerable.

    Vulnerable to what? Hand-waving and criticism by suggestion, hint, or implicature are easy, but not helpful or in keeping with the charity that criticizes only in order to aid others in coming to the truth. If you wish to criticize Jason’s position, please lay out the criticism explicitly and openly.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  36. Joey,

    Romans 8:30 without its context is a pretext for proof-text. What is chapter 8 about? It follows Paul’s lamentation in chapter 7 that the law cannot save. He begins chapter 8 with “There is THEREFORE now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” This is a direct answer to his rhetorical question “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”. His point here is that if the law cannot deliver me, who will? And the answer is Christ, who through the Holy Spirit, enables the believer to walk in holiness. But the fact remains that there is nothing deterministic about this; earlier in v 12 and 13, Paul reminds the Romans that if they walk in the flesh, they will die! Context matters, Joey.

    So how does this context put the so called golden chain into focus? Paul wants to encourage the Romans to persevere in their faith: so he points to the past: those God called, He predestined, he justified and glorified. Note carefully that every verb in that sentence is in the aorist. Paul is speaking eschatologically here: he is viewing the victory from the other side of eternity. Why does he do this? Because his main goal here is to ENCOURAGE the Romans. Very much akin to a speaker at commencement saying to graduates “Remember, those that this alma mater has matriculated, it has educated and those it has educated, it has bequeathed to society as soldiers for the common good.” Is such a statement meant to prove without reasonable doubt that every student enrolled at Golden Chain University will indeed make a positive contribution to society? Of course not. Some will go on with flying colors, others will flunk out and fail. That is not what the commencement speaker has in mind, he’s not there to debate that. He is not there to argue for deterministic outcomes, but rather to encourage those graduates. The fact that it is obvious that not all go on to do such does not prevent him from speaking in the most positive of terms because he simply wants to embolden them as well as those who have not graduated yet.

    Now, you will say: well, that implies that God fails in effecting His salvation. This is a non sequitur. Consider the Jews, and the fact that the great majority of them since they were born as a people have failed to be a light to the world. Did God therefore fail in His promise to Abraham? Should we declare Him to have ‘only’ made it so that a fraction of Jews might be saved? Of course He has not failed (this is a big part of Paul’s thrust in the epistle to the Romans). The problem is that the reformed definition of success is sub-biblical. God works THROUGH failure and that magnifies His Glory, as opposed to diminishing it. Have you stopped to consider that even the failure of some Christians to persevere is being used by God as a warning to those who are persevering?

    Coming back to Romans 8:3-4. This is the mirror image of 1 Peter 2:24: “24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness”. Only that here Paul is expanding how that living for righteousness takes place: it takes place by walking in the Spirit. Now here’s your mistake: you restrict the phrase ‘who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit’ to being descriptive only. Why? I agree that it is descriptive, but given the CONTEXT of chapter 8, which includes not only encouragement but also warning, it cannot be limited to being merely descriptive. Look at what verse 1 says:

    “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, WHO DO NOT WALK ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT”. You will say, but that is merely descriptive again. What then do you do with this:

    “12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For IF you live according to the flesh you will die; but IF by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

    and just a little later on:

    “16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, IF indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

    Quite a few IFs, wouldn’t you say? Here is another one from Romans 11:

    “22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, IF you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”

    So the entire context of Romans 8 and the epistle as a whole supports the teaching that walking in the Spirit is our responsibility as believers, failing which we will die/ be cut off. Yes, it is all made possible by Christ’s substitutionary death and God’s grace. But that does not obviate the fact that Christ Himself has required that we be fruitful with this grace. This teaching is clearly echoed in Paul as shown above.

    I noticed that you did not address any of the verses I pointed out to you and neither did you address my question about Calvin. So let me rephrase again: Would you sit under the teaching of man who angrily planned to execute another for disagreeing with him? (“I shall never permit him to depart alive” part of Calvin’s letter referencing Servetus). Is this how we ought to respond to the grace that God has poured out on us? With anger and violence towards others? “It was the culture of the day” say Mohler, Piper and others. What then, of the fact that there were countless others, in the torturous culture of medieval Europe, who refused to engage in violence towards those who disagreed with them. Many of these landed here in America….persecuted by calvinists and Geneva…So I ask in all honesty, how can ‘culture’ be used as a defense of calvin’s actions and those of his followers. The scriptures tell us that our elders are to be not given to brawls or quarreling. Does Calvin pass the test?

    Heb 12:14 exhorts believers to make every effort to be holy for without holiness no one will see the Lord. There is an effort made here! Did not the one who was given 5 talents multiply them? Did he come back to His master and boast or did he simply say “here is what is yours”? And what about Luke 17:10, where the unworthy servants say we have merely done our duty? Is there any boasting in that? Consider the words of Christ to the unprofitable servant: he banishes him to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. You will try to argue: but wait he wasn’t saved. Not so. Read the parable. Christ had given Him a talent, a gift of immeasurable value. All 3 are servants of His, but not all three respond to His grace as a benefactor in the same way. Likewise, consider how Heb 10 outlines the ethos of grace:

    “29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and INSULTED the SPIRIT of GRACE?”

    TF Torrance never interacted with the above, and for good reason, he could not reconcile the above with this theological presuppositions. Heb 10:30 unequivocally shows that there is a strong backdrop of HONOR to the grace that God pours out. Grace is given by our Benefactor and He expects an honorable response to it. Again, the reformers and the reformed are ignorant or deliberately choose to ignore the reality of God our Savior as Patron/Benefactor. I recommend you read the work done by David De Silva on the matter “Honor, Patronage, Kinship and Purity, Unlocking New Testament Culture” as a starting point.

  37. Michael (#34),

    Perhaps you can help me out. A while back I asked a question on another post which was not really answered. I asked,

    …..what would be the difference between what a Catholic means by “being in Christ” and by what a Protestant would mean by “being in Christ”. How would being in Christ (from a Catholic perspective) differ from having Christ’s righteousness because one is joined or united to him ?

    I am having a bit of trouble seeing the difference of imputation—(Christ’s alien righteousness being imputed to us) and of being partakers of the divine nature as Peter mentions. Bryan , in comment 347 on the post about Imputation and Paradigms wrote:

    If Christ is truly united to us internally, then so is His righteousness, because He is nowhere unrighteous. If, on the other hand, Christ’s righteousness is not united to us internally, then Clark’s claim that Christ is in us is reduced to the equivalent of Christ’s omnipresence in bees, trees and rocks.

    The concept I am trying to understand, then, is if I become a partaker of the divine nature because I am in Christ, then am I not participating in “His” righteousness (a righteousness outside of myself that somehow becomes internal)? When Christ’s righteousness is united to us internally is this not “His” righteousness? As you stated, it is a “communication of His own nature”.Is the only difference, between this concept and imputation , the idea that one is external and the other is internal? How is the internal “my” righteousness? Do I become so united with Christ’s nature that our natures ……are one and the same so that it is now my righteousness ? How would this differ from imputation? Do Protestants really believe imputations means an external declaration and not an internal change?

  38. Joey,

    I am not sure what confession says “that any progress we may make in this life is pretty insignificant”. What confession are you referring to?

    I had in mind Heidelberg Catechism 144:

    Q: But can those who are converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?

    A: No, for even the holiest of them make only a small beginning in obedience in this life.

    Perhaps, what you mean to say is “insignificant in context of meriting justification but not in the context of sanctification”.

    No, that’s not what I meant to say. This section of the HC is not dealing with justification, but sanctification. So in the context of sanctification, even the holiest of men make only a small beginning in obedience in this life (and if that’s true, what hope do those have who are not among the holiest of men?

    The second part on which you say, “that every good work we perform is utterly tainted with sinfulness” should be put in context also. The insufficiency of good works and its imperfection should be seen in the context of justification.

    Here’s the statement I had in mind:

    Q: Whence arises the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

    A: The imperfection of sanctification in believers arises from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God. (WLC 78)

    Again, the context is not justification at all, but sanctification. The question to which this is the answer states that explicitly. So I stand by what I said.

    While sanctification is insisted upon in the Reformed paradigm, the fact that not a single thing we do in this life is deserving of anything but hell, together with the fact that all one’s future sins are forgiven in justification, brings me to the conclusion I stated above: In the Reformed system, sanctification is a mere footnote to justification, an optional afterthought that consigns our Spirit-wrought works of love and sacrifice to the level of mere response that, while great if it’s actually offered, doesn’t have any causal relation to our being saved in the end.

  39. Jason,

    No, that’s not what I meant to say. This section of the HC is not dealing with justification, but sanctification. So in the context of sanctification, even the holiest of men make only a small beginning in obedience in this life (and if that’s true, what hope do those have who are not among the holiest of men?)

    HC has no sections Justification and Sanctification and you know that. Furthermore, I know that you are familiar that perfect obedience is a concept of Justification. And you know that this section you are quoting is dealing with the reality that even those who have been justified have once fallen into sin and can still fall into sin therefore no one can perfectly obey the commandments. Only Jesus has done that for us. This statement in no way means that our obedience is insignificant as you claim and that God is not pleased with our obedience. It only means that even the holiest of men is disqualified from the perfection demanded by the Law and can not redeem himself or reverse the verdict of condemnation on the grounds of his work. So, if only Jesus perfectly lived out the commandments and obeyed it, why are we commanded to obey the God’s Law in this life? The HC also succintly answered that debunking your erroneous claim that Reformed theology makes our obedience insignificant:

    Q & A 114

    Q. But can those converted to God
    obey these commandments perfectly?

    A. No.
    In this life even the holiest
    have only a small beginning of this obedience.1

    Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose,
    they do begin to live
    according to all, not only some,
    of God’s commandments.2

    1 Eccles. 7:20; Rom. 7:14-15; 1 Cor. 13:9; 1 John 1:8-10
    2 Ps. 1:1-2; Rom. 7:22-25; Phil. 3:12-16
    Q & A 115

    Q. Since no one in this life
    can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly,
    why does God want them
    preached so pointedly?

    A. First, so that the longer we live

    the more we may come to know our sinfulness
    and the more eagerly look to Christ

    for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.1

    Second, so that
    we may never stop striving,
    and never stop praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit,

    to be renewed more and more after God’s image,

    until after this life we reach our goal:

    perfection.2

    1 Ps. 32:5; Rom. 3:19-26; 7:7, 24-25; 1 John 1:9
    2 1 Cor. 9:24; Phil. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:1-3

    Secondly, you asked, “what hope do those have who are not among the holiest of men?” The fact is, in Reformed Theology, all our hope stemmed from the fact that it is God who effectively (without fail) transform the hearts of the justified into the image of His Son. That’s the hope: God’s effective power. I will ask you Jason the same question in the Roman gospel you now hold: “What hope do you have when the effectiveness of God’s saving grace is dependent on how much you extend effort and cooperate with that, meriting the righteousness needed, avoiding mortal sin, doing penance and atoning for temporatl guilt of your sins in purgatory so that finally you will be deserving of the beatific vision?” In the Roman schema, since God’s saving grace can be thwarted by the automous will of man, you can only put your hope in your efforts (and the efforts of others when you are in purgatory since merit will not be possible there) that you will not fail or that it is enough that you may gain the beatific vision. Can the gospel you believe now really offer you the perfection of Christ and His full ability to save you not because of your efforts and striving but by the blood of His Son and by His grace?

    With regards to WLC 78, I know that you know the context of this. This is the full context Jason:

    Question 77: Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

    Answer: Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ;in sanctification his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued:the one does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

    Question 78: Whence arises the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

    Answer: The imperfection of sanctification in believers arises from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

    Question 79: May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace ?

    Answer: True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

    Because we acknowledge the reality that we do sin even after justification in this life, we know that our obedience does not qualify as grounds for our justification. Only the perfection of Christ will qualify for that. Only the work of Christ on the cross is the good work that reverses our verdict. Thus, we point and look to Christ alone and His Righteousness because we acknowledge that even the best of us have fallen and continue to fall short of God’s glory. That’s why we dare not say that our righteous works merits justification and for the reason, as the WLC stated, that our works fall short of the glory of God and can not be accepted as the ground upon which God will justify.

    But does this mean that sanctification is a mere footnote and optional afterthought? I hope, you ponder on this Jason. Do you really believe in the reformed system, this effective act of God in transforming the lives of the saints such that He will write in their hearts His laws is a footnote and optional afterthought? Is God’s creative power to sanctify those whom He justify a mere footnote? You know the answer to this. You can read Calvin and our confessions and I know, in your hearts of hearts, no one in the reformed camp after reading these documents would arrive at your conclusion. Sanctification for us is one of the best work of God in our lives and we cherish it every day, every minute of lives because we know that God will not fail to change and complete His work in us. But it is also our joy and perfect peace that the righteousness we have that justifies us is a settled perfect righteousness, not paid or merited from our best of works, but from gracious act of God when Christ substituted Himself for our sake, His righteousness ours and our unrighteousness His because He loved us.

    …consigns our Spirit-wrought works of love and sacrifice to the level of mere response that, while great if it’s actually offered, doesn’t have any causal relation to our being saved in the end.

    I want you to go back to the Word of God. I know you don’t trust yourself interpreting this book now. But read it still. Compare what you have asserted above of good works being causal to our being saved. Observe the negation. In your heart, you know that God can speak to you in His Word. If this is God’s Word, believe this rather than the lure of philosophy and medieval theology. Die for what God’s Word said rather than the claimants of the voice of God on earth. He has not left us with nothing… He left us with a surer word, inspired coming from His very breathe that we may know Him and the gospel that powerfully saves us:

    For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another. But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have donebut on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

    In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless. But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ, and be found in him,

    not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law

    , but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.

    For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness. Where, then, is boasting?

    It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith!

    For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law.

    You are not yet home Jason. Your home is not found in an institution but in a person, Jesus Christ.

    Regards,
    Joey

  40. Mike,

    That criticism assumes that God only saves people “effectively” if his will leaves them no choice but final salvation. In other words, it assumes monergism. That assumption begs the question.

    That also assumes that monergism and “effectivity” leaves anyone with no choice but final salvation.

    That does not mean we earn grace by our own power of free choice; it means that our own power of free choice is enabled, by God’s unmerited communication of his own nature, to choose as God wills within us, and thus to partake of the divine nature. Being finally saved, therefore, does not displace our freedom but restores it–if we would but have it so.

    We coaxed the system with so many words but in the final analysis -IF WE WOULD BUT HAVE IT SO-the grace of God is ineffective and does not save anyone.

    Regards,
    Joey

  41. There comes a time every few months where some new zinger catch-phrase comes in apologetics, and I think Jason has landed the latest one in post #38. Sanctification always has had an interesting place in Reformed soteriology, but I think Jason chose the perfect description for it: “a footnote of Justification.”

    Once Justification is not dependent on Sanctification, then it naturally falls into a “footnote” type status, since the Christian doesn’t need Sanctification to be worthy of entering Heaven. And as was shown – despite the fact the following is totally unbiblical – Reformed sources even admit a Christian’s works are thoroughly tainted by sin and are truly displeasing to God, except for the fact God graciously chooses not to impute sinfulness to them. Naturally the Reformed say that the Holy Spirit will assuredly produce good fruits in anyone who is truly saved, but the Bible is full of believing individuals who fell into grave sin. Indeed, half the New Testament was spent chiding Christians who had turned to sin (cf Revelation 2-3). And even the Westminster admits Christians can turn to lives of sin and even remain there for an indefinite time: “Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein” (17:3). So it seems like a standing contradiction to say the Holy Spirit assuredly changes a Christians lifestyle so that they get better day by day and yet Christians are able to (inexplicably, since free will is denied) turn to lives of sin.

    Another part of the Westminster’s teaching on Sanctification has always baffled me: “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life” (13:2). So Sanctification is admittedly “imperfect in this life,” meaning the Christian dies unsanctified in some real sense. The only explanation is if human nature is seen as literally sinful, and the only way to escape this is literally leaving the flesh behind in death, but that’s a form of Manicheanism.

  42. Joey,

    The Gospel you are preaching seems to be so very alien to the Bible I read…

    I pray that all to have the grace to follow the truth wherever it may lead.

    Chris

  43. Bryan,

    My point was brief but explicit and transparent, I believe. One of Jason’s main argument was that there is no need for adding to the benefit of the Spirit working through agape (like what Protestant theology does when it adds the benefit of imputed righteousness to the benefit of infused righteousness) because God accepts imperfect righteousness like that of Elisabeth and Zechariah. I questioned the validity of this argument on the basis of 1) the role of the treasury of merits (someone else”s work somehow made beneficial to my final salvation) and 2) the need for final perfection implied by both the role of this treasury of merits and the need for purgatory (final purging from sins) in RC theology.

  44. Ádám, (re: #43)

    Merely questioning something does not refute or falsify it. Yes, you questioned the compatibility of Jason’s claim with (1) the Catholic doctrine of the treasury of merit and (2) the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. But you did not show any incompatibility between Jason’s claim and those two doctrines. And in comment #29, I explained how they are compatible.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  45. Bryan,

    Where did I say that I refuted or falsified Jason’s claim? I expressed my opinion that there are reasons to doubt the validity of those claims. As for your explanation of the compatibility of Jason’s claim and the two doctrines, I simply fail to see how it is convincing.

  46. Ádám, (re: #45),

    I agree that you didn’t say that you refuted or falsified Jason’s claim.

    You wrote:

    I expressed my opinion that there are reasons to doubt the validity of those claims.

    Right. And I’m pointing out that nothing you have said so far shows that what Jason said, i.e. “the Catholic Church teaches that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law” is incompatible with the Catholic doctrines of the treasury of merit and purgatory. So far, therefore, you have not provided any good reason to doubt the compatibility of Jason’s statement with those Catholic doctrines.

    As for your explanation of the compatibility of Jason’s claim and the two doctrines, I simply fail to see how it is convincing.

    Ok, but that’s a statement about yourself — that you fail to see something. It doesn’t show any incompatibility between Jason’s statement and those two Catholic doctrines. If you want to make a case that Jason’s statement is incompatible with those two Catholic doctrines, you have to do more than talk about what you don’t see. Otherwise, all you have offered is an unsubstantiated assertion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  47. Joey,

    You wrote to Jason above:

    “I want you to go back to the Word of God. I know you don’t trust yourself interpreting this book now. But read it still. Compare what you have asserted above of good works being causal to our being saved. Observe the negation. In your heart, you know that God can speak to you in His Word. If this is God’s Word, believe this rather than the lure of philosophy and medieval theology. Die for what God’s Word said rather than the claimants of the voice of God on earth. He has not left us with nothing… He left us with a surer word, inspired coming from His very breathe that we may know Him and the gospel that powerfully saves us”
    This just begs the question, what does ‘go back to the Word of God’ mean? Does it mean going back to epistemic randomness which must then be corraled back to the Westminster Larger Catechism which itself is greatly influenced by medieval theology?

    If God has left us with a surer word, then why is there a need for the WLC or WSC? You will say, well the catechism only speaks of which is in the Scriptures. Is that so? Says who? Joey Henry? John Calvin? By whose authority do you speak? And if what it contains is so readily available in the Scriptures, why not just go directly to the Scriptures then? I ask these not as confrontational questions, but they are difficult questions that need asked and answered. The ultimate question is this: where is the doctrinal standard in a world with 42000+ denominations, and possibly as many denominations as there are protestants? Can you acknowledge that there is a deep need for a standard?

    To that end I submit the following: The Scriptures tell us in Jude 1:3 that there was a faith ONCE and for ALL delivered to the saints and that we are to contend for it. That is not up for debate, the statement is merely declaring a fact. We also know that Christ commends some of the earliest Christians living in the 1st/early 2nd century in the book of Revelation. Given these 2 premises, isn’t it rational and fair to ask ourselves what did those Christians actually believe? We have the record of the Apostolic Fathers for us to consult. Did they believe in sola scriptura or sola fide? Not a shred of evidence for this. How about imputation of righteousness? Nowhere to be found. The faith was ONCE and for ALL delivered. It did not need Calvin’s brilliance or Luther’s insights. And yes, I agree with you that there was no such thing either as penance or a treasury or merit in the faith of the AF, or even icon/Mary veneration, but think first about the doctrines you hold so dear. Where is the evidence that the holiest men of God who were actually commended by Christ believed as you do?

  48. Joey,

    HC has no sections Justification and Sanctification and you know that.

    Yes it does. The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three parts: The Misery of Man, God’s Deliverance, and Man’s Thankfulness. The section I quoted which said that even the holiest of men make but a small beginning in obedience (which you wrongly insisted was talking about obedience in reference to justification) is in the third section of the Catechism, the section dealing with sanctification.

    Furthermore, I know that you are familiar that perfect obedience is a concept of Justification. And you know that this section you are quoting is dealing with the reality that even those who have been justified have once fallen into sin and can still fall into sin therefore no one can perfectly obey the commandments. Only Jesus has done that for us.

    John the Baptist’s parents “were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blamelessly.” How, given your paradigm and what you just said, do you understand that passage in Luke 1?

    This statement in no way means that our obedience is insignificant as you claim and that God is not pleased with our obedience. It only means that even the holiest of men is disqualified from the perfection demanded by the Law and can not redeem himself or reverse the verdict of condemnation on the grounds of his work. So, if only Jesus perfectly lived out the commandments and obeyed it, why are we commanded to obey the God’s Law in this life? The HC also succintly answered that debunking your erroneous claim that Reformed theology makes our obedience insignificant.

    The only thing erroneous is your not knowing that both of the confessional statements I adduced (HC/WLC) were talking about sanctification and not justification as you thought.

    But that aside, what we have here is a clash of paradigms with one of us not realizing it (you). Your entire operating assumption is that it is the Law that defines obedience, which is why you say, “even the holiest of men is disqualified from the perfection demanded by the Law.” Now if I were a Pharisee I would agree with you and the Reformed tradition that it is obedience to the letter of the Law that defines the obedience that God requires. But as long as I am a Catholic who doesn’t share your assumption on that point, you simply can’t expect to use it as a premise that doesn’t need defending.

    So you’re either unaware of the basic Catholic position on this issue (that God’s will is fulfilled by Spirit-wrought love of God and neighbor and not by perfect obedience to the letter of the law), or you’re unwilling to fairly represent the position you’re trying to refute. But in either case, debating is pointless until you stop begging the question.

    I will ask you Jason the same question in the Roman gospel you now hold: “What hope do you have when the effectiveness of God’s saving grace is dependent on how much you extend effort and cooperate with that, meriting the righteousness needed, avoiding mortal sin, doing penance and atoning for temporatl guilt of your sins in purgatory so that finally you will be deserving of the beatific vision?”

    You could have asked Paul a similar question when he told the Corinthians that God’s grace toward him was “not in vain” since he “labored more than anyone else.” In fact, I would venture to guess that every prominent NT figure—Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John—made at least one or two statements that could give rise to the very question you’re asking me. Jesus said that unless we hear his words and do them, our house is built on sand and will collapse on judgment day. “OK, but how much obedience, Jesus? And how perfect must that obedience be?” John said that God gives us what we ask “because we keep his commandments.” Well, couldn’t you just ask John, “But since it is impossible to obey the law perfectly, then why are you making answered prayer hinge on something we cannot do?”

    I could go on and on. My point is that your paradigm makes no sense out of these passages and others. And it is ironic that the very objections you’re offering against the Catholic gospel could be made to statements found all over the NT, especially statements from Jesus. So until your problems with the Catholic message don’t also apply to the biblical one, you’ll have to forgive me for thinking they sound pretty hollow.

    Because we acknowledge the reality that we do sin even after justification in this life, we know that our obedience does not qualify as grounds for our justification. Only the perfection of Christ will qualify for that. Only the work of Christ on the cross is the good work that reverses our verdict. Thus, we point and look to Christ alone and His Righteousness because we acknowledge that even the best of us have fallen and continue to fall short of God’s glory. That’s why we dare not say that our righteous works merits justification and for the reason, as the WLC stated, that our works fall short of the glory of God and can not be accepted as the ground upon which God will justify.

    There’s nothing here that a Catholic would object to, which makes me wonder whether you understand the position you are arguing against. The CC teaches plainly that our initial justification is irrespective of our works—in fact, since initial justification happens usually in the baptism of an infant, it should be pretty obvious that we don’t believe that its “ground” is works.

    But does this mean that sanctification is a mere footnote and optional afterthought? I hope, you ponder on this Jason. Do you really believe in the reformed system, this effective act of God in transforming the lives of the saints such that He will write in their hearts His laws is a footnote and optional afterthought? Is God’s creative power to sanctify those whom He justify a mere footnote? You know the answer to this. You can read Calvin and our confessions and I know, in your hearts of hearts, no one in the reformed camp after reading these documents would arrive at your conclusion. Sanctification for us is one of the best work of God in our lives and we cherish it every day, every minute of lives because we know that God will not fail to change and complete His work in us. But it is also our joy and perfect peace that the righteousness we have that justifies us is a settled perfect righteousness, not paid or merited from our best of works, but from gracious act of God when Christ substituted Himself for our sake, His righteousness ours and our unrighteousness His because He loved us.

    I never claimed that consigning sanctification to a footnote or afterthought was something that a Reformed theologian would draw as an explicit conclusion (in fact, I think I specifically denied this). What I am saying is that a devalued sanctification is the implicitly logical result of (1) a justification that forgives all future sin, (2) the imputation of alien righteousness, and (3) a covenantal framework that sees Gen. 3 as the major turning point in redemptive history.

    I want you to go back to the Word of God. I know you don’t trust yourself interpreting this book now. But read it still. Compare what you have asserted above of good works being causal to our being saved. Observe the negation. In your heart, you know that God can speak to you in His Word. If this is God’s Word, believe this rather than the lure of philosophy and medieval theology. Die for what God’s Word said rather than the claimants of the voice of God on earth. He has not left us with nothing… He left us with a surer word, inspired coming from His very breathe that we may know Him and the gospel that powerfully saves us.

    If you like, I could adduce dozens of NT passages that draw an explicitly causal connection between our Spirit-wrought works and our receiving the eternal kingdom on the last day. Can you think of a single one that says that on the day of judgment God will receive us irrespective of our works, but because of the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience?

    (And no fair listing passages that any Catholic would heartily embrace without also showing that they necessitate the Reformed understanding of imputation.)

    You are not yet home Jason. Your home is not found in an institution but in a person, Jesus Christ.

    Christ’s mystical Body is not a mere institution, it is Christ himself (just like your right arm isn’t some dispensable thing that’s not part of you). It’s Gnostics who pit Jesus against his Body, not Christians.

    Not to sound lazy, Joey, but if you could keep your response (if you write one) a bit more concise and manageable lengthwise, that would be boss.

  49. Bryan,

    You either don’t understand my point or you don’t want to understand it. Never mind. I originally wrote it to Jason, anyway.

  50. Ádám (re: #49)

    Perhaps I don’t understand your point. All I have to go by is what you wrote. Here’s the recap. In #22 you asked:

    So why is there still a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory?

    I answered that question in #29. In #33 you responded by stating the following:

    I think what the treasury of merits and purgatory point toward is that, just like in Protestant theology, in the Catholic system there is 1) some kind of alien (extra nos) righteousness (the merits of other saints) and 2) a need for perfection (final purging from veniel sins because of our imperfection in agape). This makes Jason’s case extremely vulnerable.

    In #35 I replied by explaining that your first claim (that there is an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness in Catholic doctrine) confuses the paying of a debt of punishment by way of satisfaction, and the extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness. I also pointed out that your second claim (i.e. “. . . makes Jason’s case extremely vulnerable”) is mere hand-waving. An authentic criticism would explain what’s wrong with Jason’s claim, rather than merely asserting, without substantiation, that it is “extremely vulnerable.” We don’t rightly evaluate theological claims by whether they are “vulnerable,” but rather by whether they are true or false. And nothing you have said so far shows that Jason’s statement is false. That is why criticisms that end at “that claim is extremely vulnerable,” are mere sophistry.

    Then in #43 you wrote:

    My point was brief but explicit and transparent, I believe. One of Jason’s main argument was that there is no need for adding to the benefit of the Spirit working through agape (like what Protestant theology does when it adds the benefit of imputed righteousness to the benefit of infused righteousness) because God accepts imperfect righteousness like that of Elisabeth and Zechariah. I questioned the validity of this argument on the basis of 1) the role of the treasury of merits (someone else”s work somehow made beneficial to my final salvation) and 2) the need for final perfection implied by both the role of this treasury of merits and the need for purgatory (final purging from sins) in RC theology.

    Jason’s claim that there is no need for adding extra nos imputation to the benefit of the Spirit working through agape is fully compatible with (1) the doctrine of the treasury of merits, and (2) the doctrine of purgatory. You keep pointing to (1) and (2) as though those somehow falsify Jason’s claim (or are problematic for Jason’s claim), by being incompatible with Jason’s claim. But again, as I explained in #29, Jason’s claim is fully compatible with those two doctrines, and you have not provided any reason or argument showing an incompatibility between Jason’s claim and those two doctrines.

    In #45 you wrote:

    I expressed my opinion that there are reasons to doubt the validity of those claims. As for your explanation of the compatibility of Jason’s claim and the two doctrines, I simply fail to see how it is convincing.

    Yes, you have expressed your opinions. But as I explained in #46 you have not yet shown how there is any incompatibility between Jason’s claim and those two Catholic doctrines. Neither benefiting from the treasury of the saints nor being purified in purgatory involves an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness.

    So that brings us to #49, in which you wrote:

    You either don’t understand my point or you don’t want to understand it. Never mind. I originally wrote it to Jason, anyway.

    I think it is not charitable to assume (or propose) that I don’t want to understand your point, just as it wouldn’t be charitable for me to propose that you’re not truly trying to understand the Catholic paradigm on its own terms. So if you think I don’t understand your point, then perhaps you can clarify your point. On the other hand, if you wish to drop or retract your claim, that’s fine with me.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  51. Kim (#37):

    You ended your comment by asking:

    Do Protestants really believe imputations means an external declaration and not an internal change?

    Many Protestants do, including the ones participating in this thread. Catholics believe that justification, which happens by God’s declaring us righteous, i>also initiates sanctification, and thus internal change. Thus God’s declaring us righteous makes us truly righteous, and does not merely cover over sin.

    Just before that, you asked a series of questions:

    The concept I am trying to understand, then, is if I become a partaker of the divine nature because I am in Christ, then am I not participating in “His” righteousness (a righteousness outside of myself that somehow becomes internal)? When Christ’s righteousness is united to us internally is this not “His” righteousness? As you stated, it is a “communication of His own nature”.Is the only difference, between this concept and imputation , the idea that one is external and the other is internal? How is the internal “my” righteousness? Do I become so united with Christ’s nature that our natures ……are one and the same so that it is now my righteousness ?

    When we become righteous, the life of God is lived within us and transforms us, so that our actions performed by his grace become his actions and vice-versa, by a cooperation of wills. That’s what it means to undergo the process of divinization. We do not become God by nature, but by participation.

    Best,
    Mike

  52. Joey (#40):

    I had asserted that your criticism of Catholic soteriology assumes “monergism,” and thus begs the question. To that, you replied: “That also assumes that monergism and “effectivity” leaves anyone with no choice but final salvation.” That reply misses the mark.

    My assertion was not an assumption, but an inference from (a) what you say and (b) the definition of monergism. The Wikipedia definition is pretty good: “Monergism describes the position in Christian theology of those who believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, works to bring about effectually the salvation of individuals through spiritual regeneration without cooperation from the individual.” So if you hold that God “effectively” saves us without the cooperation of our free will–and that is what you hold–you’re a monergist. Nor, I notice, do you deny you’re a monergist.

    In fact, you reaffirm monergism. As a Catholic, I had written that our salvation comes about when:

    …our own power of free choice is enabled, by God’s unmerited communication of his own nature, to choose as God wills within us, and thus to partake of the divine nature. Being finally saved, therefore, does not displace our freedom but restores it–if we would but have it so.

    To that, you reply:

    We coaxed the system with so many words but in the final analysis -IF WE WOULD BUT HAVE IT SO-the grace of God is ineffective and does not save anyone.

    You seem to take for granted that it is not God who saves us if we have any choice in the matter. Salvation must therefore be monergistic if it is to be salvation at all. But that assumption is unwarranted.

    God saved humanity through Jesus’ death and resurrection. If those had not happened, none of us would be able to please God by any means, including free choices, because everybody would remain enslaved to sin. But because it has happened, we all have the opportunity to be grafted, as it were, onto Christ, and thus be liberated from sin to participate in his divine goodness. That it remains up to us to stay in Christ or not, that we can grow in holiness or fall away if we choose, does nothing to change that. When a person chooses to stay in Christ, it is God who continues transforming them into a sharer in his nature, which is supremely free. So, while it is God who does the work of salvation all the way through, that work does not displace our freedom, or our activity in general, but transforms and strengthens them.

    Best,
    Mike

  53. Thanks, Michael

  54. JASON: “I sold my dog and bought a cat instead. Both are cute, but cats make better pets because they don’t need to be fed, they eat mice on the streets.”

    ADAM: “But… most people feed their cats, too, Jason. If you don’t feed them they might not remain your pets for too long. Your choice is based on an extremely vulnerable assumption.”

    JASON: “Well… no. Not at all. Bryan, could you help me here?”

    BRYAN: “Jason’s position is not incompatible with the fact that most people feed their cats because what cats eat at home is not mice and it is only a supplement to what they eat on the streets, anyway. You haven’t refuted or falsified anything. And please, don’t make hints, be more explicit.”

    ADAM: “I didn’t want to refute Jason’s case, I only said it’s extremely vulnerable. Arguments can be weak, you know, and Jason’s argument is weak because cats are usually fed, too. And your argument, Bryan, that feeding cats is different than feeding dogs hasn’t convinced me.”

    BRYAN: “That’s subjective. You simply make unsubstantiated assertions.”

    ADAM: “That’s frustrating…”

    BRYAN: “That’s uncharitable!”

    ADAM: “This is a weird conversation. Thank you for listening, but I need to go now. Bye.”

  55. Ádám, (re: #54)

    You wrote:

    JASON: … cats make better pets because they don’t need to be fed, they eat mice on the streets.

    ADAM: … If you don’t feed them they might not remain your pets for too long. Your choice is based on an extremely vulnerable assumption.

    If you want to argue by way of analogies, the example you choose cannot be disanalogous. Your example, however, is disanalogous, because the claim that “keeping a cat as a pet does not require feeding the cat because cats eat mice on the streets” is a probabilistic claim (i.e. it is true only in some, but not all cases). It does not follow by necessity from the nature of cats. Thus the person who assumes “keeping a cat as a pet does not require feeding the cat” to be true regarding his own cat is “vulnerable” to finding out that in his own case it is not true, whereas Jason’s actual claim i.e. (that the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts is precisely what fulfills the law thus making extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness superfluous) is not a probabilistic claim. Rather, it follows by necessity from the nature of the supernatural gift given at baptism.

    You might be intending to imply that Jason himself is now vulnerable, because in Catholic doctrine, not everyone who receives the supernatural gift of grace and agape at baptism necessarily remains in a state of grace. That is, you might be intending to imply that by embracing a theological position in which apostasy is actually possible, Jason is more vulnerable than if he were to maintain the Reformed position according to which upon regeneration and faith, final apostasy is impossible. But if the Catholic doctrine is true, then by acknowledging its truth one is less vulnerable to apostasy than if one were to continue to believe falsely that actual apostasy is impossible. So if you’re intending to imply that by embracing a theological position that allows for apostasy, Jason is more vulnerable to losing his salvation, your claim presupposes the falsehood of the Catholic position, and thus begs the question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  56. Bryan,

    I know a guy who repairs telephones. Once an old lady went to the repair shop and told him that she couldn’t switch on her phone. The guy looked at the phone and pushed the button. The phone switched on (there was a faint light in the background that he could recognize) but the screen didn’t show anything. He gave back the phone to the woman and said: “But it can be switched on.”

    You remind me of that guy. This is not an ad hominem argument because it is not an argument at all. It is an honest feedback. I feel like the old woman when I talk to you.

  57. Ádám (re: #56),

    This is your 67th comment here at CTC. If the Catholic Church were false, would it really be so difficult to refute her that you must resort publicly to comparing your Catholic interlocutors to clueless phone repairmen? I understand something of the frustration and desperation that arises when trying to fight the Catholic Church. I’ve been through it; so has Jason. In the end, as Jason said in the podcast, “truth wins.” Let’s stick to the evidence and argumentation, shall we? If the evidence and argumentation is on your side, there is no reason to abandon it and engage in personal criticisms of those who do not hold your position. If, however, the evidence and argumentation is not on your side, then you will have to resort to personal criticisms to avoid following the evidence and argumentation where it leads.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  58. No, Bryan. And you did it again. But let me explain myself once more in the hope that we can make some progress in understanding each other.

    First, I didn’t come here to refute the Roman Catholic system. I came here to understand why Jason had made such a puzzling and – to my mind – incomprehensible step when he left Protestantism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. I didn’t come here to search Catholicism and I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life on this website. Frankly, the RCC doesn’t interest me too much. I’m not even fighting it. Her claims are too implausible to me to consider her as an option for myself. This might make you feel sorry for me, but this is just how it is. I’m not fighting the RCC. But Jason was a friend.

    Secondly, I followed Jason’s argument in the interview very carefully. He explained that there is a duplex beneficium Christi in the Protestant theological tradition, but this double benefit is made unnecessary in the RC system by the single benefit of Spirit-wrought righteousness that fulfills the law. He also explained in the interview that this fulfillment of the law doesn’t have to be perfect (unlike in Protestant theology) because the parents of John the Baptist, for example, were certainly not sinless and yet were called “blameless.”

    So I asked: what about the treasury of merits and purgatory in the RC system? In RC theology there is a grace that works in us (Spirit-wrought righteousness), which is one benefit. But there is also a second benefit (or you can call it whatever you want) which is made useful to us in our way to eternal life: the merits of other saints in the “treasury of merits.” These merits are external to us, like, though not exactly like, the alien righteousness of Protestant theology. Plus in RC theology we need further purging at purgatory. This shows that, contrary to Jason’s claims, there is a need for perfection even in the RC paradigm in order that we can enter into glory and have the beatific vision. The explanation that you gave about how the two doctrines and Jason’s argument are not incompatible has not convinced me. You missed my point. You strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel.

    And thirdly, this is exactly my problem in communicating with you. Maybe I am not clear in my communication. There can be a language barrier, too (English is my second language). But sometimes when I think I do communicate clearly and unambiguously you still either don’t see my point or you strategically miss it. You are a very clever man, Bryan. In the analogy of the repairman and the old woman the repairman is a very intelligent man, the old lady is the less intelligent one. And yet, the conversation between them is not very meaningful because the repairman is not ready to face the illocutionary force of the woman’s communication. This is where our conversation, I believe, got shipwrecked a few times.

    And thirdly, I would prefer if Jason answered my question, but it’s O.K. if he doesn’t want to. I’m ready to move on.

  59. Ádám, (re: #58)

    Your latest comment helps advance the discussion, in my opinion. You wrote:

    So I asked: what about the treasury of merits and purgatory in the RC system? In RC theology there is a grace that works in us (Spirit-wrought righteousness), which is one benefit. But there is also a second benefit (or you can call it whatever you want) which is made useful to us in our way to eternal life: the merits of other saints in the “treasury of merits.” These merits are external to us, like, though not exactly like, the alien righteousness of Protestant theology. Plus in RC theology we need further purging at purgatory. This shows that, contrary to Jason’s claims, there is a need for perfection even in the RC paradigm in order that we can enter into glory and have the beatific vision. The explanation that you gave about how the two doctrines and Jason’s argument are not incompatible has not convinced me. You missed my point. You strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel.

    Again, talking about yourself (“has not convinced me”) side-steps the evidence, because the question is not whether you (Ádám) are convinced of x, but whether there is some incompatibility between Jason’s claim and those two doctrines. (E.g. The Pharisees could not have refuted Jesus’s claims or arguments by replying, “We’re not convinced.”) As I pointed out in both comment #35 and comment #50, in Catholic theology there is no extra nos imputation of the merits of the saints. In Catholic theology, merit (whether that of Christ or the saints) cannot be imputed to anyone other than the person who merited. Satisfaction, however, can be made on behalf of another, in order to remove a debt of punishment. Your argument conflates the distinction between imputation of merit, and payment of debt by way of satisfaction. That’s why the doctrine of the treasury of merit is fully compatible with Jason’s claim that infused agape makes extra nos imputed righteousness superfluous. What to you seems like a ‘gnat’ (from the Protestant point of view) is a camel in the Catholic paradigm. And by dismissing the distinction (between imputation of merit and payment of debt by satisfaction) as irrelevant or insignificant (e.g. a mere ‘gnat’), you beg the question by presupposing the falsehood of the Catholic position.

    Second, you claim that the Catholic doctrine of purgatory “shows that, contrary to Jason’s claims, there is a need for perfection even in the RC paradigm in order that we can enter into glory and have the beatific vision.” The problem with that claim is that Jason has never claimed that perfection is unnecessary for entering glory and having the beatific vision. He agrees (with you) that perfection is necessary for entering glory and having the beatific vision. But in the Catholic paradigm there is a very important difference between fulfilling the law by having the essence of the law, and fulfilling the law by following the law to the letter. This is what I was explaining in comment #29, and the links embedded there. When Jason speaks of God accepting the “imperfect” righteousness of Zachariah and Elizabeth, he is referring to “imperfect according to the letter,” since they were not without venial sin. But they were righteous because they had infused agape, which is the essence of the telos of the law, and they walked in that agape. That is why they were truly righteous, and had no need for an extra nos imputed righteousness, even though they may have needed purgatory after death for venial sins they had committed. Your claim that purgatory is problematic for Jason’s claim presupposes that there is no difference between the essence of the fulfillment of the law, and the letter of the law. In that way, however, your claim begs the question, i.e. presupposes the falsehood of the Catholic position. Basically, the problem here is almost precisely what I addressed in “Imputation and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig,” in which one side is not grasping the paradigm difference (with respect to righteousness) when criticizing the other position. That’s what I was trying to explain in comment #29 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  60. Bryan,

    I closely followed Jason’s exegesis because I wanted to understand his point. Though I disagreed with his conclusions (I think he made some serious mistakes in his exegesis) I nevertheless entered into his paradigm as much as I could. And I saw a tension there. After listening to what you say about the distinction between someone else’s merits being imputed to us and someone else paying satisfaction for our debt, and that in your opinion it is not a minor distinction, I still see a tension within Jason’s argument. If you are correct that even according to Jason Spirit-wrought-agape-fulfilling-the-law is not enough for the perfection that is needed for final salvation (I didn’t hear Jason say that), we are still exactly where we started. In the RC paradigm there is need for another benefit (beside infused grace), just like in Protestant theology (though not in the same way). Therefore Jason’s case is extremely vulnerable. Not Jason, but his case.

    So yes, I find your argument unconvincing. And yes, it is my personal reaction to what you say. But no, it does not side-step the evidence. An argument happens in a communicative situation as part of one’s communicative act. Perlocution is an important aspect of communication. Arguments can be convincing or unconvincing, more convincing and less convincing. Moreover, arguments are not always like the binary number system where there is only 0 or 1, falsification or verification. Some arguments are more forceful than others. Arguments cannot always be reduced to right and wrong syllogisms. Truth often needs validation rather than verification. (Do others see what I see? Do others see a problem with my perception of reality?) Reality is messy. Truth is in many ways subjectivity as well as objectivity. In that sense I’m more of an Augustinian and a Kierkegaardian than a Thomist. So when you try to exclude from our discussion the factor that I find your argument unconvincing you do something unreal. But this leads us into an entirely new realm where I don’t intend to go.

    Please, let me leave. I’ve said what I wanted to say (and much more). I don’t want to win this argument. I raised a question to Jason and it’s O.K. if you think you’ve answered it. It is my problem if I think you haven’t.

  61. Michael (re:#51),

    I haven’t been able to follow all of the comments here, as I’ve been sick for almost a week, but I just want to provide some thoughts regarding part of your reply to Kim. In #37, she asked you:

    Do Protestants really believe imputation means an external declaration and not an internal change?

    You replied to her:

    Many Protestants do, including the ones participating in this thread. Catholics believe that justification, which happens by God’s declaring us righteous, i>also initiates sanctification, and thus internal change. Thus God’s declaring us righteous makes us truly righteous, and does not merely cover over sin.

    It is true that Protestants do not believe the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to them (in the general Protestant understanding of such) does not, in and of itself, *make* them righteous.

    It’s also true that, unfortunately, there are some Protestants who believe that justification and imputation need not necessarily be *followed* by sanctification. That belief is decidedly *not* the historic Reformed understanding of this matter, but there are some Protestants, such as the author Zane Hodges, who hold to such an understanding.

    However, from the Reformed confessions, books, and articles that I read when I was Reformed, and from all that I was taught by my ecclesial leaders in those circles, the historic Reformed teaching is that all who are justified, and who, therefore, have Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to them, *will* be sanctified. That is the implication of the “I” and “P” in the Calvinist “TULIP”: God’s monergistic grace in regeneration is “Irresistible,” and, after one is justified by that grace (through faith), one *necessarily* begins the synergistic process of sanctification, the “Perseverance of the Saints.”

    However imperfect and faltering that sanctification is, Reformed Protestants do hold that justification *entails* sanctification. To be sure, they are separate and distinct, in that the former is monergistic, involving a forensic declaration by God of the Christian’s imputed righteousness, while the other is synergistic, requiring the Christian’s participation. From all of my knowledge of Reformed thinking though, justification does entail sanctification– in that all who are justified will, *by definition*, be sanctified, imperfect though that sanctification be. Consistent five-point Calvinists don’t break apart the “TULIP” by saying that some Christians are justified but never sanctified.

    As a Catholic, of course, none of the above reflects my *current* thinking on the relationship between justification and sanctification. However, the above was my thinking (and was what I was taught to believe), as a “Reformed Baptist,” five-point-Calvinist Protestant.

  62. Michael,

    P.S. Correction: I meant to type in comment #60, “It is true that Protestants do not believe the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to them (in the general Protestant understanding of such), in and of itself, *makes* them righteous.”

    Back to my recovery and away from the computer (and typos)… :-)

  63. Adam,

    I’m not avoiding you, honest. I answered your original question briefly and then invited Bryan to get into greater technical detail if he wished. Since he has done so I have just been following your dialogue from the sidelines.

  64. Christopher (61),

    I am so sorry you are sick.

    I suppose you and Michael (51) are both correct. I think Michael was answering my direct question which was related to the fact that imputation from the Protestant perspective does not produce an internal change in the believer. I just checked with Berkhof and he does state, basically, what Michael did concerning this subject of inner change. Berkhof says (page 512),

    With respect to the nature of justification the Reformers corrected the error of confounding justification with sanctification by stressing its legal character and representing it as an act of God’s free grace, whereby He pardons our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight, but does not change us inwardly.

    Berkhof adds to this on page 513,

    Justification is a judicial act of God, in which He declares, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner. It is unique in the application of the work of redemption in that it is a judicial act of God, a declaration respecting the sinner, and not an act or process of renewal, such as regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. While it has respect to the sinner, it does not change his inner life. It does not affect his condition, but his state, and in that respect differs from all the other principal parts of the order of salvation.

    Berkhof later sates on the top of page 514,

    In distinction from it [justification]sanctification is a continuous process, which is never completed in this life.

    Therefore the imputation [which justification is concerned with] does nothing to change the inner life according to Berkhof. It does not change the man’s condition , but his state.

    My question to Michael was also dealing with the subject of what it means to be partakers of the divine nature and how or whether this differed from imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Perhaps some of the differences are in regard to what Berkhof calls ”man’s condition” and man’s “state”. The aspect of being partakers of the divine nature would be in regards to man’s condition, I suppose?. I think I find the Protestant’s way of separating these things strange. Salvation has to include regeneration, conversion, sanctification, yet as Berkhof shows , the Protestants [Reformed ones] separate these things from Justification. As you have stated , these things basically will necessarily follow according to the views of the Reformed. I understand. The Catholic view seems to gather in the whole work of salvation and the Reformed view seems to splinter it.[In my opinion].

    I do find it interesting that Berkhof on page 511 says that the doctrine of justification by faith “did not find its classical expression until the days of the reformation”.

    Thanks, Kim

  65. Ádám, (re: #60)

    You wrote:

    I closely followed Jason’s exegesis because I wanted to understand his point. Though I disagreed with his conclusions (I think he made some serious mistakes in his exegesis) I nevertheless entered into his paradigm as much as I could.

    If you think that the Catholic-Protestant question reduces to exegesis, then you are presupposing the Protestant paradigm. Jason makes this point in the podcast; see “The Tradition and the Lexicon” article linked in the post at the top of this page. Of course there is no requirement that you embrace the Catholic paradigm, but the goal in Catholic-Protestant dialogue aimed at coming to agreement concerning the truth is at least to see the other paradigm, such that one’s criticisms of the other paradigm are not question-begging, as would be the case if you were claiming that the question should be decided on the basis of exegesis.

    If you are correct that even according to Jason Spirit-wrought-agape-fulfilling-the-law is not enough for the perfection that is needed for final salvation (I didn’t hear Jason say that), we are still exactly where we started. In the RC paradigm there is need for another benefit (beside infused grace), just like in Protestant theology (though not in the same way). Therefore Jason’s case is extremely vulnerable. Not Jason, but his case.

    I think it would help here if you were more precise in your criticism. In logic we do not rightly criticize claims or arguments by merely claiming that they are vulnerable. If we think a claim is vulnerable to falsification, we provide the evidence that falsifies it or gives reason to believe it to be false. Likewise, if we think an argument is vulnerable to refutation we provide the refutation, or at least sketch out the way it could possibly be refuted. Claiming that a case is vulnerable is like claiming that a tree is vulnerable or a building is vulnerable; such a claim isn’t helpful unless you specify the with-respect-to-whatness of the predicate, i.e. the tree is vulnerable to disease or to carpenter ants, or the building is vulnerable to a terrorist attack, or to an earthquake, etc. As long as you leave the with-respect-to-whatness unspecified, you avoid the work of showing how it is vulnerable. And that makes your criticism a form of hand-waving (i.e. I think there is a problem here, but I’m not going to take the time to show where the problem is, and how exactly it is a problem; I’m merely going to imply that there is a problem in a drive-by comment.)

    The relevant question is whether Jason’s claim is false, or made “vulnerable” to falsification on account of the Catholic doctrines of the treasury of merit and purgatory. And the answer to that question is no. That’s because the believer’s possible need for purification in purgatory after death, and the possibility of his being benefited by the treasury of merit, does not entail or imply either that it is not by the Spirit’s infusion of agape into our hearts that the law is fulfilled in us, or that in Catholic theology too there is some kind of extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness. If you want to show that there is a problem with Jason’s claim, then you’re going to have to show the problem.

    You wrote:

    So yes, I find your argument unconvincing. And yes, it is my personal reaction to what you say. But no, it does not side-step the evidence. An argument happens in a communicative situation as part of one’s communicative act. Perlocution is an important aspect of communication. Arguments can be convincing or unconvincing, more convincing and less convincing. Moreover, arguments are not always like the binary number system where there is only 0 or 1, falsification or verification. Some arguments are more forceful than others. Arguments cannot always be reduced to right and wrong syllogisms. Truth often needs validation rather than verification. (Do others see what I see? Do others see a problem with my perception of reality?) Reality is messy. Truth is in many ways subjectivity as well as objectivity. In that sense I’m more of an Augustinian and a Kierkegaardian than a Thomist. So when you try to exclude from our discussion the factor that I find your argument unconvincing you do something unreal. But this leads us into an entirely new realm where I don’t intend to go.

    This might be one of the more fundamental, underlying factors making it more difficult to reach agreement. In 2010 Tom Chantry, who attended Westminster Seminary California, and now pastors at Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Milwaukee, wrote an article titled “How Education Makes Us More Stupider.” In that article he wrote the following:

    That brings us to the quintessential failed trend in modern education: the idea that students must make knowledge their own, with the result that its meaning will always be derived from within. English departments have enshrined this narcissistic exercise as “post-modern criticism,” which perhaps is why so many English majors are unemployable.

    Frighteningly, the “what-it-means-to-me” mentality is creeping from the English department into all other classrooms. It seems that there is no area of learning which cannot be existentially re-imagined. All truth is merely a platform for artistic self-expression. What matters are never the facts conveyed in the curricula; rather the students’ conversation about inward angst is the key to learning. (I just keep praying that the medical schools are bucking the trend; I don’t ever want to be in the hands of a surgeon who wrote a paper entitled “What Anatomy Means to Me.”)

    Of course I agree with you that arguments can be convincing to some people, and unconvincing to others. But counting how many people are persuaded or unpersuaded, or whether an argument persuades oneself or not, is not how arguments are rightly evaluated, because a sound argument may be unconvincing to most people (including oneself), and an unsound argument may be convincing to most people (including oneself). Many examples of either case are available. (The work of Kahneman and Tversky immediately comes to mind.) When I teach logic, I know there are certain invalid arguments that most students will misjudge as valid, and certain valid arguments that most students will misjudge as invalid. The more logic they learn, the less likely this is to happen. But nevertheless, it does happen. And the fact that it happens shows that nose counting is not a safe way of evaluating an argument, if our goal is truth. The fact that we can be mistaken about the soundness of an argument shows that our own persuasion or lack thereof is also not a safe way of evaluating an argument.

    To evaluate an argument by whether one finds it convincing is to fail to recognize that there are objective and rational criteria by which to determine whether arguments are sound or unsound, and that one’s failure to accept the truth of the conclusion of the argument does not necessarily make the argument unsound, and that one’s embrace of the truth of the conclusion of an argument does not necessarily make the argument sound. Only in the case of an infallible agent does persuasion by the argument entail that the argument is a sound argument, and non-persuasion entail that the argument is unsound. That’s why using one’s own persuasion (or non-persuasion) as a criterion for evaluating the soundness of the argument presupposes an over-exalted view of oneself, because it treats oneself as if one is God, i.e. infallible, in this particular way, namely, by being persuaded by all sound arguments without fail, and never being persuaded by any unsound arguments. In this way, making one’s own condition of being persuaded or unpersuaded a criterion for evaluating arguments is a kind of narcissism, very much along the lines Chantry describes in the quotation above.

    Using one’s own having been persuaded (or remaining unpersuaded) as a criterion for judging an argument is even more problematic in the case of a Reformed person who believes in total depravity and the fallenness of his own intellect. If your intellect is fallen, your failure to be persuaded by an argument is no reason to believe that the argument is unsound, because this failure could just as easily be due to ignorance, irrationality, bias, confusion, the noetic effect of sin, etc. Likewise, and for the same reason, given the fallenness of your intellect, your being persuaded by an argument is no reason to believe it to be sound.

    The notion that good arguments are only those that persuade me, and bad arguments are all those that don’t persuade me, is the intellectual equivalent of stipulating that true propositions are all those I believe to be true, and false propositions are all those I believe to be false. But only God can rightly make such a claim. Again, making such a claim denies one’s own fallibility with respect to such judgments, and takes a Protagorean notion that man’s intellect is the measure of truth and soundness, rather than truth and soundness being the measure of our intellect. Whether an argument is persuasive or not is a measure not of the soundness of the argument, but rather, all things being equal, of the speaker’s mastery of the art of rhetoric, the telos of which is persuasion. The telos of arguments, however, is finding the truth.

    I’ve ready plenty of St. Augustine and Kierkegaard, and I’ve never seen either of them endorse the notion that whether a person finds an argument persuasive is the (or a) criterion by which the soundness of an argument is to be judged. On the contrary, the Christian philosophical tradition all the way down recognizes that man is not the measure of all things, but is measured by them. If you disagree, please point to the paragraphs in the respective works of St. Augustine or Kierkegaard where they make this claim. Agreement concerning theology often requires backing up and clearing away faulty philosophical presuppositions. This notion that arguments are to be evaluated by whether one finds them persuasive is one such presupposition. If two people disagree on some theological matter, and they each think “the other person’s arguments are shown to be faulty if I am unpersuaded by them,” resolution of the disagreement is futile, because by adopting that presupposition, then since they find each other’s arguments unpersuasive, no rational way forward is left open to them by which to evaluate the arguments they offer to each other. Progress toward agreement can be had only if they each agree on objective criteria by which to evaluate their respective arguments, criteria other than “I am not persuaded by your argument.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  66. Bryan (65),

    You stated,

    Progress toward agreement can be had only if they each agree on objective criteria by which to evaluate their respective arguments, criteria other than “I am not persuaded by your argument.”

    I think I am getting lost in the forest here. What are you saying the criteria is?

  67. Kim (re:#64),

    Thanks for your thoughts, sister. I’m feeling somewhat better tonight. Hopefully, by tomorrow evening, I will be fully recovered.

    In reading your comment, with the excerpts from Berkhof, I may have found a more precise way to state what I was trying to say earlier. It is definitely true that, in the Reformed understanding, imputation, in and of itself, produces no internal change in the believer. Imputation is God crediting of Christ’s perfect righteousness to the believer, and this crediting has to do with how God chooses to *view* the believer (i.e. as having the righteousness of Christ.

    However, the internal change, in a sense, has already come (again, in the Reformed understanding) with *regeneration*, which precedes and causes faith, through which comes justification. Because of one’s God-enabled faith alone in Christ alone (in the specific way that the Reformed understand this matter), one is justified, and God imputes the perfect righteousness of Christ to oneself. Again, Berkhof states the Reformed view correctly in saying that this imputation produces no internal change in the believer. The internal change actually comes *before* imputation, with God’s regeneration of the believer, which the Reformed understand to be monergistic. The internal change then continues through sanctification, which historic Reformed Protestantism (in my understanding, at least) holds to be synergistic.

    I agree with you completely that the historic Reformed view separates the various aspects of salvation in a way that the Catholic Church’s teaching does not– and I agree that the Reformed view separates certain of these aspects in a strange and unnecessary way. As a Protestant, obviously, I viewed the separation between justification and sanctification to be at the very heart of the Gospel. However, when I made the conscious choice to re-study the Bible without my “Reformed lenses,” I began to see this sharp Reformed distinction between justification and sanctification as a matter of Reformed *eisegesis*, rather than exegesis. While we cannot be justified by works alone, neither can we be justified by a “faith alone,” even in Christ alone, that is devoid of works.

    The interesting thing is, Reformed Christians would actually *agree* with Catholic Christians that a professed “faith alone,” without works, does not save. However, the Reformed would say that such a faith is simply not Christian faith at all, whereas Catholics would say that it could still be “Christian faith,” in some sense, but that even a fervently professed Christian faith, without works, will not justify anyone before God and does not save him/her.

    It’s tragic, really. The historic Reformed view (following Calvin, especially) on justification and works/sanctification has much more in common with the Catholic Church’s teaching than many Reformed people seem to realize– and yet, many Reformed Protestants continue to say that the Catholic Church does not have “the Biblical Gospel.” I made that claim myself as a Reformed Baptist. From my standpoint now though, as a Catholic “revert,” we Catholics are simply following the words of Jesus, and St. Paul, and St. James on justification and works– *as* those words are rightly understood, as they have been taught by the Church for 2,000 years from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

    The Protestant Reformation introduced sharp theological distinctions in a salvific process that had not been understood, nor taught, for the previous 1, 500 years of Christianity. Or, as you wrote:

    I do find it interesting that Berkhof on page 511 says that the doctrine of justification by faith “did not find its classical expression until the days of the reformation”.

  68. Bryan,

    I plan this to be my last response to you under this thread. You have probably spent a lot of time answering my comment, or thinking that you were answering my comment. Had you spent at least half of that time trying to understand my comment and its intention your response (even if half as long) would have been a lot more beneficial to our communication. I experience two things again and again:

    1. You exagerate my claims so you can write a long refutation. E.g. I never said that “whether a person finds an argument persuasive is the (or a) criterion by which the soundness of an argument is to be judged”, nor do I agree with that claim. But you wrote a long refutation of it. This is pointless.

    2. You don’t seem to grasp that there is so much more in communication and persuasion than formal logic. A response is a part of communication but a response doesn’t necessarily have to be a logical refutation. At least in my world. It can also be a pause, an expression of doubt, fear, unbelief, lack of persuasion, which are equally real and valid responses. Maybe not on this website, or in your world, but then you might be reading too much scholastic and analytical philosophy. People are not machines of logic, there is intuition and so many other aspects of a human dialogue, which are important elements of being in the truth or outside it (Johannine language).

    I followed Jason’s exegesis because he wanted to convince us, remaining Protestants, that exegesis leads us toward Rome. I entered HIS paradigm. (Again, you didn’t listen to what I said.) And his paradigm looked vulnarable to me in the way I explained in the sentences before I said the “v” word which was the first gnat you strained at. Since then I have explained again why I thought his case was vulnarable “with-respect-to-whatness” (that is, to collapse as a case) four or five times already.

    Bryan, I don’t want to continue this conversation.

    Blessings,
    Ádám

  69. I forgot to link an article to my second point (on Kierkegaard’s view of truth as subjectivity): http://szabadosadam.hu/divinity/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/truth-as-subjectivity2.pdf

    I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Kierkegaard said but he makes a valid point, I believe. I don’t want to discuss this here, though. I’m out.

  70. Ádám, (re: #68,69)

    You wrote:

    Had you spent at least half of that time trying to understand my comment and its intention your response (even if half as long) would have been a lot more beneficial to our communication.

    When people misunderstand you, the more charitable (and ecumenically helpful) response is to attribute the misunderstanding to your own failure to communicate adequately, rather than assume that they did not give sufficient time and effort attempting to understand you. This response also helps you become a better communicator. (I find this principle to be true in marriage as well. :-)

    You exagerate my claims so you can write a long refutation.

    If I have exaggerated your claims, then I am sorry for having done so. It was not my intention to do so, let alone to do so in order to write a refutation. I’m attempting to go by what you have said.

    Let’s consider how I came to believe that you think arguments or explanations can be evaluated by whether one finds them persuasive or convincing. In comment #29, I explained how Jason’s statement is compatible with the two Catholic doctrines you think are problematic for Jason’s claim. In #45 you responded by saying,

    As for your explanation of the compatibility of Jason’s claim and the two doctrines, I simply fail to see how it is convincing.

    In #46 I replied by noting that this is a claim about yourself, and does not show any incompatibility between Jason’s statement and those two Catholic doctrines, or falsify anything I said about the compatibility of his claim with those two doctrines.

    Then in #58 you again claimed that these two Catholic doctrines are problematic for Jason’s claim, and added:

    The explanation that you gave [in #29] about how the two doctrines and Jason’s argument are not incompatible has not convinced me.

    In both instances (#45 and #58) you did not deal with the explanation I provided showing how Jason’s statement is compatible with those two Catholic doctrines. Instead, you dismissed my explanation [in #29] on the basis of its not having convinced you. So in #59 I pointed out that dismissing my explanation on the basis of its not having convinced you side-steps the evidence and argumentation I have offered in that explanation. When evaluating arguments and explanations, whether in science, or engineering, or theology or mathematics or any field of inquiry, “I’m not convinced” is not a good reason to dismiss anyone’s explanation or argument (for the very reasons I subsequently laid out in #65).

    Then in #60, your offered a whole paragraph defending your appeal (in #58) to your own not-being-convinced as a good reason for dismissing my explanation. In that paragraph you wrote that “Truth often needs validation rather than verification,” suggesting that your finding my explanation (in #29) unconvincing is a legitimate reason for dismissing it. Toward the end of that paragraph in #60 you wrote:

    So when you try to exclude from our discussion the factor that I find your argument unconvincing you do something unreal.

    My previous comments (in #46 and #59) were not attempting to exclude anything from our discussion, including your expression of being unpersuaded. In fact, in a dialogue it is helpful to know what one’s interlocutor is persuaded by and what he finds unpersuasive. Rather, I was pointing out that your being unpersuaded or unconvinced is not a good reason (or “factor”) for dismissing my explanation (in #29) and moving ahead with your criticism of Jason’s claim. But given this context (i.e. comments #45, 58, and my responses in #46 and #59), it seems to me that most readers would take your second paragraph in #60 as naturally indicating that you do indeed think that arguments and explanations can be evaluated by whether one finds them persuasive. So when you now write, “You exagerate my claims so you can write a long refutation,” perhaps you might consider whether your own words may have in some way implied the position I have criticized in #65.

    You don’t seem to grasp that there is so much more in communication and persuasion than formal logic.

    Rather than attribute ignorance to me, a more charitable interpretation would be that although I am quite aware of the other aspects of communication, I nevertheless believe firmly that appeals to one’s not-being-convinced are not good reasons for dismissing evidence or argumentation offered by one’s interlocutor. It wouldn’t be safe to assume that anyone who claims that appeals to one’s not-being-convinced are not good reasons for dismissing evidence or argumentation offered by one’s interlocutor is ignorant of the other aspects of communication beyond formal logic.

    I entered HIS paradigm. (Again, you didn’t listen to what I said.) And his paradigm looked vulnarable to me in the way I explained in the sentences before I said the “v” word which was the first gnat you strained at. Since then I have explained again why I thought his case was vulnarable “with-respect-to-whatness” (that is, to collapse as a case) four or five times already.

    By dismissing the explanation I provided in #29 (on the basis of your being unpersuaded by it), you have not entered his paradigm, which is the Catholic paradigm. Jason’s claim is that these passages of Scripture fit better into the Catholic paradigm. The explanation I have provided in #29 shows the compatibility of Jason’s claim with the two Catholic doctrines you have mentioned, and therefore why his case does not “collapse.” From my point of view, it would be disingenuous to claim that Jason’s case collapses on account of an objection you have raised, while dismissing (on the basis of your own not-being-persuaded) the Catholic reply to that objection.

    As for Kierkegaard’s “Truth Is Subjectivity,” I’m quite familiar with it, having first read it back in the 90s. And I largely agree with your summary. However, that in no way supports the notion that one’s being unpersuaded by an argument or explanation is a good reason for dismissing it, or that in a rational dialogue aimed at disagreement, each interlocutor may dismiss the arguments or explanations of the other interlocutor if he or she is unpersuaded by them.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  71. Bryan,

    I didn’t simply dismiss your explanation. I considered it and rejected it because you based it on a distinction that I don’t see as significant to my argument. I referred to this fact every time I redefined my point (43, 54, 58, 60). You have not refuted my argument. If you think you have then I beg to disagree. You need to do some more thinking or you need to find better arguments. Or make more efforts to ponder why I don’t find your explanation persuasive.

    I don’t think we will convince each other and I totally lost interest in this nitpicking dialogue. If my tone was not right or I accused you of a misunderstanding that I was responsible for, I apologize.

  72. Ádám, (re: #71)

    You wrote:

    I didn’t simply dismiss your explanation. I considered it and rejected it because you based it on a distinction that I don’t see as significant to my argument.

    To be clear, you don’t see as significant the distinction between extra nos imputation in Protestant theology as a second benefit beyond sanctification, and the benefits received through the treasury of merit and purgatory in Catholic theology. As you said in #58:

    He explained that there is a duplex beneficium Christi in the Protestant theological tradition, but this double benefit is made unnecessary in the RC system by the single benefit of Spirit-wrought righteousness that fulfills the law. He also explained in the interview that this fulfillment of the law doesn’t have to be perfect (unlike in Protestant theology) because the parents of John the Baptist, for example, were certainly not sinless and yet were called “blameless.”

    So I asked: what about the treasury of merits and purgatory in the RC system? In RC theology there is a grace that works in us (Spirit-wrought righteousness), which is one benefit. But there is also a second benefit (or you can call it whatever you want) which is made useful to us in our way to eternal life: the merits of other saints in the “treasury of merits.” These merits are external to us, like, though not exactly like, the alien righteousness of Protestant theology. Plus in RC theology we need further purging at purgatory. This shows that, contrary to Jason’s claims, there is a need for perfection even in the RC paradigm in order that we can enter into glory and have the beatific vision. The explanation that you gave about how the two doctrines and Jason’s argument are not incompatible has not convinced me.

    I responded to this in some detail in #59, explaining how what we receive from the treasury of merits is not an extra nos imputation of an alien righteousness, and how the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is fully compatible with what Jason actually said. In reply, you wrote the following in #60:

    After listening to what you say about the distinction between someone else’s merits being imputed to us and someone else paying satisfaction for our debt, and that in your opinion it is not a minor distinction, I still see a tension within Jason’s argument. If you are correct that even according to Jason Spirit-wrought-agape-fulfilling-the-law is not enough for the perfection that is needed for final salvation (I didn’t hear Jason say that), we are still exactly where we started. In the RC paradigm there is need for another benefit (beside infused grace), just like in Protestant theology (though not in the same way). Therefore Jason’s case is extremely vulnerable.

    These last two lines are at the heart of your reasoning. In your mind because in Catholic theology there is another benefit besides infused grace, therefore “Jason’s case is extremely vulnerable.” But that conclusion does not follow from the premise. There are many other benefits we Catholics now enjoy. Suffering, for example, in Catholic theology is a benefit we receive in this present life. So are prayers on our behalf by the saints, and the consolation that provides. We also receive the benefit of the Holy Spirit directed guidance of the Church, including the orthodox teaching of the Church. We have the benefit of the examples of saints and martyrs. We have the benefit of the sacrament of reconciliation, and the assurance provided therein of our reconciliation to Christ and His Church. And so on. The fact that there are many additional benefits Catholics receive in this present life, in addition to the gift of infused grace and agape by the Holy Spirit, is fully compatible with Jason’s point. His point was not that in Catholic doctrine there are no additional benefits that God has provided beyond infused agape, but that the gift of infused agape makes one benefit in particular, i.e. extra nos imputed righteousness, unnecessary because superfluous. That’s why if you point to other benefits Catholics receive (according to Catholic theology), and conclude therefrom that Jason’s case collapses, you are attacking a strawman of your own making. If you wish to challenge Jason’s actual claim, then you will have to do something you have not yet done in this thread: show that even given infused agape, extra nos imputed righteousness is still necessary. If you merely claim that Jason’s case is “extremely vulnerable” [to collapse] or any other such hand-waving, Jason’s claim remains intact.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  73. Christopher (67),

    Hope you are continuing to recover! Thanks for reminding me of those aspects of the reformed faith. I had forgotten about their ordering of the process of salvation. No system of belief is as straight forward as it appears at first. The Westminster Confession of Faith in its section XI on justification states:

    II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

    There are similarities and differences, and it sometimes gets tricky trying to navigate the doctrines and trying to communicate concerning them!. Thanks Christopher—for reminding me.

    Kim

  74. Bryan,

    O.K. Once more you dragged me back into this discussion.

    In the interview Jason talked about what is needed for final salvation (whatever you call it, and please don’t get stuck at my terminology). Here is Jason’s argument as I understood it. In Protestant theology for final salvation we need to be in Christ which state has two kinds of benefits: 1) infused righteousness (regeneration, sanctification), and 2) imputed righteousness (justification). The latter benefit secures our salvation, the former necessarily accompanies it. But RC theology is better because 1) it doesn’t require perfect righteousness (the examples of blameless Elisabeth and Zechariah prove this), and 2) Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness fulfills the law (in that imperfect and yet blameless form) and therefore makes imputed righteousness superfluous.

    It proves nothing if you list dozens of additional benefits in the RC system because they don’t play in Jason’s argument. You would compare apples and oranges and step outside Jason’s paradigm (the paradigm of his argument, not the paradigm of the entire Roman system). There are many benefits in the Protestant system, too (e.g. pastors in the church, reading of Scripture, breaking the bread, confession of sins to other believers, praying for each other, singing together) which Jason didn’t mention, for obvious reasons: they are not in his comparison, either.

    Jason compared the DOUBLE benefit found in Christ in Protestant theology with the SINGLE benefit of Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness in Catholic theology. In Jason’s view the latter makes the second benefit of Protestant theology (imputed righteousness) superflous because it takes the role of both. Romans 8:4 examplifies it for him. Jason confessed in the interview that this exegetical discovery (which I think is incorrect) contributed to his conversion to Rome.

    However, Roman Catholic theology does require final perfection. Otherwise there would be no purgatory. Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness does not take the role of imputed righteousness fulfilling the law for us, because there will be a need for final purging from venial sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness was unable to make right. And in an ironic way someone else’s merits (those of the saints) do come into the picture as a benefit for making right sins that Spirit-wrought agape cannot.

    So I still think that Jason’s argument is unconvincing. If that led him to Rome than he made a serious mistake.

  75. Hey Ádám :)

    I’m not quite sure of the best way to express myself, so here goes… I just wanted to thank you for stopping by and throwing your thoughts out here. This whole “pursuing Truth wherever it leads” business is difficult – not stuff for the faint of heart. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, though, and doesn’t mean we Catholics aren’t glad you are here too. I’m glad you stopped by and gave us your thoughts – thank you. Feel free (as far as I’m concerned) to comment whenever – I’ll read whatever you write here, and even if I disagree I don’t think you wasted your time. Have a blessed day, brother :)

    Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  76. Dear Bryan Cross,
    I’m sorry! I don’t quite understand what you are saying in the following block that you have addressed to Ádám.

    His point was not that in Catholic doctrine there are no additional benefits that God has provided beyond infused agape, but that the gift of infused agape makes one benefit in particular, i.e. extra nos imputed righteousness, unnecessary because superfluous.

    Sincerely, Robert Glenn

  77. I responded to this interview here: http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2012/11/responding-to-jason-stellman.html

  78. Ádám, (re: #74)

    Summarizing Jason’s claim you wrote:

    But RC theology is better because 1) it doesn’t require perfect righteousness (the examples of blameless Elisabeth and Zechariah prove this), and 2) Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness fulfills the law (in that imperfect and yet blameless form) and therefore makes imputed righteousness superfluous.

    I agree that Jason has claimed (2), but I think he has not claimed (1); nor does (1) accurately represent what he has in fact claimed. What makes the Catholic paradigm better, so Jason is claiming, is not that “it doesn’t require perfect righteousness,” but that it makes better sense of the biblical data, such as in the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

    That’s important because of what you then go on to say:

    Jason compared the DOUBLE benefit found in Christ in Protestant theology with the SINGLE benefit of Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness in Catholic theology. In Jason’s view the latter makes the second benefit of Protestant theology (imputed righteousness) superflous because it takes the role of both. Romans 8:4 examplifies it for him. Jason confessed in the interview that this exegetical discovery (which I think is incorrect) contributed to his conversion to Rome.

    However, Roman Catholic theology does require final perfection. Otherwise there would be no purgatory. Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness does not take the role of imputed righteousness fulfilling the law for us, because there will be a need for final purging from venial sins that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness was unable to make right. And in an ironic way someone else’s merits (those of the saints) do come into the picture as a benefit for making right sins that Spirit-wrought agape cannot.

    You think that the truth that “Catholic theology does require final perfection” is problematic for Jason’s claim. But that truth is a problem only for the strawman in which Catholic theology does not require final perfection for entrance into heaven. That truth is not a problem for the claim Jason has actually made. Likewise, you again raise the doctrine of the treasury of merit as if it is problematic for Jason’s claim, because the saints’ satisfactions from which we benefit do something “that Spirit-wrought agape cannot.” However, Jason has not claimed that every benefit we receive regarding the forgiveness of sin and the removal of the debt of punishment for sin is accomplished entirely and solely by Spirit-wrought agape within the believer. Nor has anything he has said entailed such a thing. Otherwise his claim would leave no role even for Christ’s Passion in the forgiveness of our sins. What Jason has actually said regarding what Spirit-wrought agape does within us is fully compatible with the doctrine of the treasury of merit. So here too, your appeal to the treasury of merit, as though it is problematic for Jason’s claim, is based on a strawman of Jason’s position, not on the claims he has actually made.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  79. Bryan, I think it is you who have created a strawman out of Jason’s claim. Have a look at his latest blog post where he says almost verbatim what I summarized here as his argument. He might want to modify it later as he progresses in his Catholic faith, but then his argument will lose all remaining appeal to the Protestant Bible reader. Anyway, I need to leave this dialogue.

  80. Thank you, Benjamin, for your kind words. Blessings to you, too!

  81. Ádám (re: #79)

    I had already read Jason’s “The Baptist’s Blameless Forebears.” Nothing he says there either entails or is semantically equivalent to “Catholic theology does not require final perfection for entrance into heaven.” Nor does he say anything there that entails or is semantically equivalent to the notion that every benefit we receive regarding the forgiveness of sin and the removal of the debt of punishment for sin is accomplished entirely and solely by Spirit-wrought agape within the believer. So for the same reason I explained in #78, nothing Jason says in his recent blog post is incompatible with the Catholic doctrines of purgatory and the treasury of merit.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  82. You totally miss my point, but let it be according to your faith, Bryan.

  83. Ádám, (re: #82)

    I’m sorry to have missed your point. What is the point I missed?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  84. Adam,

    If you read the comments under that “Baptist’s Blameless Forebears” thread you’ll note that I say (I think to David) that it’s not the case that perfection is unnecessary, but that the perfection that is necessary does not arise from strict obedience to the letter of the law, but rather from the infusion of agape by the Spirit. “What the law could not so….”

    Hope that clarifies things a bit.

  85. I have been following this thread somewhat now.

    I realize that something needs to be cleaned up here between Mr. Brian Cross and Adam.

    What Adam is trying to say is that Jason claimed that God does not require a perfect righteousness in order for one to be considered “righteous” or “justified” in the eyes of God. Adam sees this fact (that God does not require moral and sinless perfection for final salvation) as fundamental to his argument which finds a contradiction between the practice of indulgences and purgatory with the non-requirement of moral perfection for final salvation.

    In other words, if God does not require perfection in the end, then why is there a treasury of merit and a system of purgatory? For if he could accept men as imperfect as they are, why go through this process?

    Respectively, in the protestant reformed understanding, God does indeed require sinless perfection and this requirement is met for them in Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life in their place.

    Adam’s point is extremely valid and a logical one. However, the one element that is missing in Adam’s argument is that God does not require moral perfection here on earth for one to be accepted at the final judgement, but that in the afterlife, whether one dies before the coming of Christ, or whether one is still living on earth when Christ returns, they all must both alike be “transformed into the image and likeness of Christ” at that moment.

    In other words, Elizabeth is stated to have been “righteous, walking in all the commands of God”, but since we know “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, she is not morally and sinlessly perfect. If she were to do in the state of being “righteous” and yet not “morally perfect”, God’s label of her being “righteous” because of her “walking in the commands of God” still remains for he cannot lie. So in a sense, she is already “justified” before God but remains to be completed and so must undergo the purgatorial cleansing (if she was not perfected) prior to seeing God.

    Elizabeth is “just as” accepted during her life of imperfection (yet being righteous in obedience) as she will be in the final analysis (after purgatory -if she went there) precisely because justification is a process and the person is no less or more accepted at the beginning of that process or at the end of that process. Does this make sense?

  86. I am currently attending an Anglo-Catholic Cathedral and I am not yet Catholic (I presume that one day this will happen but I still have barriers).

    However, I find Jason’s argument of how weak the arguments are for a positive proof for the protestant church and it’s ecclesiastical authority .

    For example, in the understanding of Jesus, the Church has the ultimate authority over one’s life here on earth. For when all efforts have failed in bringing an offender back to repentance, the Church is the last resort, and if he/she will not hear the Church, then they are excommunicated and under the binding/loosing powers of the Church, which finds their ratification in heaven. Jesus puts much authority into the Church, he even calls it as having the “keys to the kingdom of heaven”.

    Many protestants believe the “keys” are simply the opening of the door to the kingdom by proclaiming the cross of Jesus and the “faith” that one has to have to enter. But the “keys” function not just to “loose” or “open” but also to “bind” and “close”, even most precisely in the matter of ecclesiastical discipline of people who are already members in the Church after their conversion.

  87. Jason, thanks for stepping in, but your comment further muddles the waters.

    1. You wrote in your article: “The problem, obviously, is that not only does Luke not attribute their righteousness to a source external to them, he explicitly attributes it to their own blameless (not sinless) walking in God’s commands.” You emphasize that Elizabeth and Zechariah were not sinless and yet they were blameless and fulfilled the law. I infer from this that in your view fulfillment of the law doesn’t mean sinless perfection. You explicitly emphasize this in the interview (around min 33). You also deny the need for absolute, spotless perfection (around min 35).

    2. You emphasize both in your blog article and in the interview that Elizabeth and Zechariah certainly “went to heaven” (min 33:50). You write: “I could have denied that Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s righteousness was saving, insisting rather on some kind of Mosaic, typological righteousness. But as I noted above, if these two were actually hell-bound sinners then Luke’s description is stripped of its force.” So you explicitly say that they were finally saved – even though they were not sinless – because they fulfilled the law by the Spirit.

    3. In the comment above you write that this blameless – though not sinless – fulfillment of the law is the perfection that is necessary for salvation: “the perfection that is necessary does not arise from strict obedience to the letter of the law, but rather from the infusion of agape by the Spirit.”

    4. As I understand, your whole argument is to demonstrate that there is no need for an alien righteousness (the righteousness of Christ) that covers all sins because God accepts our Spirit-wrought-righteousness as perfection.

    5. So my original question remains: why is there a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory if Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness makes the alien righteousness of Christ superfluous and fulfills the law as the perfection that is needed for final salvation (going to heaven)?

    P.S. This is a side note. Jason, I’m so sad that you find the doctrine of a treasury of merits more apostolic than the doctrine of being declared righteous in Christ. I would never have dreamed that you would ever find the merits of saints paying satisfaction for some of your sins more apostolic than the teaching that the righteousness of Christ covers those sins. It’s so disappointing.

  88. Jason, a related question: were Elizabeth and Zechariah under the old or the new covenant?

  89. Ádám (#87)

    5. So my original question remains: why is there a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory if Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness makes the alien righteousness of Christ superfluous and fulfills the law as the perfection that is needed for final salvation (going to heaven)?

    There are not two righteousnesses of Christ, one alien and one infused. There is His righteousness. Infused in us, it saves us from the eternal penalty of sin. It does not save us from temporal penalties of sin, which is what the treasury of the saints (of works wrought from infused righteousness) and Purgatory are for.

    jj

  90. Dear jj,

    I am aware of the Roman teaching on this. But I’m following Jason’s argument right now.

  91. Adam,

    So my original question remains: why is there a need for a treasury of merits and a purgatory if Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness makes the alien righteousness of Christ superfluous and fulfills the law as the perfection that is needed for final salvation (going to heaven)?

    As I pointed out to you back when you initially asked this of me, speaking of there being a “need” for the TOM misses the point. In the same way that you might bestow delight upon the least-behaved of your children, so God reserves the right to share the wealth even to the least of his children. And as for purgatory, as I pointed out already, it exists to remove the lingering temporal effects of venial sins. In the same way that serving a long prison sentence may remove your guilt in the eyes of the law doesn’t necessarily also mean that there will be no reaping to do in other areas, so with God’s economy.

    So as Bryan has pointed out, I am not saying (and the CC does not say) that Spirit-infused agape removes every single other need we have in the Christian life (like prayer, worship, suffering, etc.). Rather, it brings about exactly what it is intended to, nothing more and nothing less.

    P.S. This is a side note. Jason, I’m so sad that you find the doctrine of a treasury of merits more apostolic than the doctrine of being declared righteous in Christ. I would never have dreamed that you would ever find the merits of saints paying satisfaction for some of your sins more apostolic than the teaching that the righteousness of Christ covers those sins. It’s so disappointing.

    I believe that sinners are declared righteous in Christ, and I affirm every verse that you would appeal to for this idea. It’s just that I go beyond you in how gracious I think the gospel is, because I believe that God’s declarations are performative and thus accomplish what they announce. The dunghill doesn’t just get covered in snow, but graciously transformed by the power of the Spirit.

    In fact, I think that if you really look at what is being said here, you’ll wonder if the guy who wrote it wasn’t in fact a Catholic:

    But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

    No way the man who wrote that thought that all the Spirit-wrought good works needed to attain heaven were simply credited to his account by a mere declaration that effected no inward change leading to redemptive suffering and striving for glory. Paul was a Catholic.

  92. Jason,

    This is confusing.

    “I believe that sinners are declared righteous in Christ, and I affirm every verse that you would appeal to for this idea.”

    Really? I thought you said the opposite.

    “It’s just that I go beyond you in how gracious I think the gospel is, because I believe that God’s declarations are performative and thus accomplish what they announce.”

    Protestants believe that, too. We are “made the righteousness of God” in Christ, because he was also “made sin for us” (2Cor 5:21). Both are performative acts. The classic example of a performative declaration is declaring a man and a woman husband and wife. Declaring Christ a sinner is a performative act. Declaring a sinner righteous is a performative act. We Protestants believe that the divine declaration of justification (I’m surprised you call it a declaration, too) is performative.

    “The dunghill doesn’t just get covered in snow, but graciously transformed by the power of the Spirit.”

    This is what Protestants believe. We believe both the covering and the transformation. But I thought as a Catholic you now deny the first part (the covering) as unnecessary and unbiblical.

    The quotation from Paul is perfectly harmonious with what I believe. If Paul was a Catholic, than I am a Catholic, too, and so are all Protestants who believe in both declarative and transformative righteousness.

  93. I think the catholic position isbthat justification comes out of regeneration which is both forgiveness and renewal. Paul says that ”he saved us….not by works of righteousness which we have done but accordingbto his mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy spirit, that having been justified by his grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”.

    It would seem Paul finds justification in both the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the holy spirit.he mentions both the washing and the renewing and then draws from this justification. It would seem justification is more than extra Nos imputation of an alien righteosuness.

  94. Ádám (#90

    I am aware of the Roman teaching on this. But I’m following Jason’s argument right now.

    Sorry, I just thought that since you asked the question, you wanted to know what the answer was.

    jj

  95. Adam,

    This is confusing.

    “I believe that sinners are declared righteous in Christ, and I affirm every verse that you would appeal to for this idea.”

    Really? I thought you said the opposite.

    You thought I said that God does not pronounce sinners righteous in Christ? I certainly don’t remember saying that. I may have said that he does not merely pronounce us righteous, but that’s not a negation of the pronouncement, is it?

    “It’s just that I go beyond you in how gracious I think the gospel is, because I believe that God’s declarations are performative and thus accomplish what they announce.”

    Protestants believe that, too. We are “made the righteousness of God” in Christ, because he was also “made sin for us” (2Cor 5:21). Both are performative acts. The classic example of a performative declaration is declaring a man and a woman husband and wife. Declaring Christ a sinner is a performative act. Declaring a sinner righteous is a performative act. We Protestants believe that the divine declaration of justification (I’m surprised you call it a declaration, too) is performative.

    There is nothing clearer in Reformed theology than that God’s forensic declaration effects no internal change whatsoever in the sinner, but merely changes his relation to the law (I just read that in Hodge five minutes ago while looking for something else). So if you are a Calvinist, then you do not agree with me here that God’s declaration is itself performative. Instead, you sharply distinguish justification and sanctification, and insist that the former is in no way contingent on the latter.

    “The dunghill doesn’t just get covered in snow, but graciously transformed by the power of the Spirit.”

    This is what Protestants believe. We believe both the covering and the transformation. But I thought as a Catholic you now deny the first part (the covering) as unnecessary and unbiblical.

    We’re talking about the simul iustus et pecator here, a formula that is adhered to by both Lutherans and the Reformed. Because both camps understand righteousness in terms of perfect obedience to the letter of the law, and that every sin is mortal, and that the only good works that contribute to your final justification are Christ’s, you and I therefore have very different notions about that dunghill.

    The quotation from Paul [which I cited in my previous comment from Phil. 3] is perfectly harmonious with what I believe. If Paul was a Catholic, than I am a Catholic, too, and so are all Protestants who believe in both declarative and transformative righteousness.

    Here are the reasons the Catholic paradigm makes more sense out of that passage: (1) Paul says he suffered loss “in order to gain Christ,” and not that he gained Christ through a monergistic new birth in which he was completely passive; (2) Paul roots his not-from-the-law righteousness in his union with Christ and not imputation, which he never even mentions; (3) Paul says that he participates in Jesus’ sufferings, which, whenever I say something like that, gets me charged by Protestants with denying the sufficiency of the cross; and (4) Paul says that he wants to attain the resurrection from the dead “by any means possible,” which would be weird for someone to say if he believed that the only means possible for attaining to the resurrection from the dead is faith alone.

    So while you certainly may read Phil. 3 and agree with it, that’s very different from Phil. 3 being the kind of thing someone with a Reformed paradigm would naturally say.

  96. Jason,

    Declaring one righteous in Christ because of Christ is (!) the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. I thought you said you denied that because Spirit-wrought agape-righteousness makes it superfluous.

    I know that forensic declaration does not effect internal change (though some Lutherans would disagree and would emphasize that the real internal change is the experience of that forgiven state). When I said that this declaration is performative I used the word performative in the classical linguistic sense. A classic example of performative declaration in linguistic textbooks is when you formally declare a man and a woman husband and wife at their wedding. Declaring a man and a woman husband and wife doesn’t change their inner nature but it does change their status. Similarly, declaring one righteous in Christ is performative in that sense, at least that’s what I meant by the word performative. Jason both of us know what Protestant theology teaches on this subject. And if you read my comments above you would not attribute such a mistake to me as confusing the two benefits that we have in Christ in Protestant theology.

    I’m confused, however, about your view of being declared righteous in Christ. How does that relate to Spirit-wrought righteousness? And what is the basis of that declaration? Is it based on my Spirit-wrought righteousness or is it based on the alien righteousness of Christ?

    Phil 3…. The passage is perfectly compatible with Protestant theology, there is nothing in it that would be incompatible with what Protestants believe (can you hear Bryan talk to you like that over and over again?). Here is my response to your four points. 1. Reformed theology teaches the perseverance of the saints even through suffering as an important element to finally gain Christ. 2. Protestant theology teaches that imputation is through participation. We are justified because we are in Christ who is our righteousness. 3. In Protestant theology participation in Christ also means that we share in his destiny, including his sufferings. 4. Again, don’t forget that in Reformed theology the fifth petal of TULIP is the promise (and need) to persevere in the faith by the grace of God. We have to remain in Christ in order to be forensically justified because we are only justified if we are in Christ. So this passage makes perfect sense in the Protestant paradigm. In fact, it makes more sense because Paul makes a clear distinction here between “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” This righteousness doesn’t depend on the Spirit or on agape or on anything that would be my righteousness, but on faith because it is the alien righteousness of God received by faith (sola fide). But the faith that receives God’s righteousness in Christ suffers with Christ, too.

    BTW, the repetition of your initial answer to my question related to purgatory and the treasury of merits avoids answering my real question. In your answer you emphasize again that the TOM is not a need but the abundance of God’s grace toward us, children of the family. But my point is the existence of such a TOM not whether it is bad, gracious, or super-gracious. You say that the duplex benefit (benefit A and B) of Protestant theology is made superfluous because benefit B takes the role of both benefit A and B in Catholic theology. But then you look around and see that people are ready to even pay money (I’m referring here to the practice of selling indulgencies) or go on pilgrimages (a possibility recently announced in one of our largest RC cathedrals for people to receive merits from the TOM) for another kind of benefit A because, contrary to what you say, benefit B doesn’t fulfill the role of benefit A entirely. The existence of purgatory (Jason and jj and Bryan, I know what its function is in RC theology, so you don’t have to explain that to me again) is further proof of this.

  97. Szabados Ádám,

    The TOM does not fulfill A, but rather something completely different than A or B. Thus, Jason’s point stands which is that the CP on justification entails both A and B, making A superfluous. The TOM relates to God’s general requirement for justice, and more specifically considers that the temporal responsibility of sin is not evaded simply because the eternal responsibility of sin has been dealt with.

    Thus, our desire to participate in the benefits of the TOM directly corresponds to our familial bond in Christ and our dual sense of responsibility for ourselves and each other in this life. This, of course, all flowing from the overabundant grace of Christ made present in the life of His Church. Purgatory simply means that God’s love poured out in our hearts completes what it starts — both perfectly satisfying the law (A & B) and transforming us perfectly into the image of the Eternal Son in so much that all crooked paths are made straight. Perfect justice kisses perfect mercy.

  98. It might be helpful, towards appreciating the sufficiency of sanctifying grace with infused charity, to consider what is supposed to be the most important “negative” benefit of the extra nos imputation of the alien righteous of Christ: Without this kind of imputation all men would be condemned to Hell, which is the eternal penalty for not fulfilling the law. In Catholic theology, on the other hand, sanctifying grace with infused charity is sufficient for the negative benefit of not being condemned to Hell, apart from extra nos imputation of alien righteousness, apart from any additional graces (such as are made available by indulgences and pilgrimages), and even with venial sins.

  99. Andrew, and in universalism no one is lost. Are you sure this a good criterion to judge truth?

  100. Brent, if you are right (honestly, I think you haven’t grasped my point, either) than Jason’s case is hopelessly confusing to me. But thanks for the interaction.

  101. Adam,

    Is this your point?

    If the infusion of agape fulfills the law, and the infusion of agape happens at baptism, then it seems that there is no need for purgatory or a treasury of merits or any post-baptismal sanctification at all. Therefore, the fact that there is purgatory and treasury of merits in Catholic theology would seem to suggest that Catholics believe there is something besides the infusion of agape that fulfills the law. There is some type of law-keeping necessary on their part.

    Is that how you are approaching the conversation?

  102. Adam,

    I don’t think that you’ve grasped my point (heh). The point was not to judge of the truth of either the Catholic doctrine of sanctifying grace with infused charity or the Protestant doctrine of extra nos imputation. Rather, I wanted to point out that, in Catholic theology, sanctifying grace with infused charity is sufficient for salvation from Hell, even if the person who has inherent grace and charity also has venial sins, and so is temporarily prevented from entering Heaven.

    Your question in comment #22 might be problematic for the thesis that “infused agape fulfills the law (venial sins notwithstanding) and so renders extra nos imputation redundant” if the benefit of fulfilling the law had only a positive aspect (going to Heaven) and not also a negative one (being saved from Hell). But if we agree that being saved from Hell is a benefit of fulfilling the law, then it is no telling criticism of the aforementioned thesis to point out that, for Catholic theology, merely having infused agape (with the presence of venial sin) is not sufficient for entering Heaven. One needs to also show that, for Catholic theology, infused agape (with the presence of venial sin) is not sufficient for avoiding Hell.

    Andrew

  103. Greetings,

    Just as an aside, I don’t think the Bible teaches the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ in 2 Cor. 5 nor in Phil. 3… never mind “double imputations” of alien righteousness. I think if we don’t address this in a clearer fashion with Adam, we might give the impression that we accept it on some level (tacitly).

    In Phil. 3, St. Paul is not comparing “human righteousness” with “God’s righteousness” (much less the personal righteousness of Christ, which the Bible NEVER speak about transferred [which is not what logizomai means anyway, despite what some seem to imply]), but, rather, a righteousness that he calls “my own” (one that he has currently) and the one he is “pressing on to take hold of.”

    The Bible never ever speaks about Christ’s personal righteousness being transferred to anyone…

    Chris

  104. Szabados Ádám,

    honestly, I think you haven’t grasped my point, either) than Jason’s case is hopelessly confusing to me.

    What is your point, or more precisely, where have I not grasped it?

    What is confusing about Jason’s case?

    Maybe, when considering Fr. Bryan’s question above, in light of mine as well, you could help move the conversation forward. I know of no one here who is trying to be purposefully obtuse. I think we all genuinely want to understand each other. So, I’m not really sure why you “appreciate the interaction”, when you haven’t interacted with me, only lodged a short comment like the uncle on the couch who comes to the family get-togethers because he has to. At least that’s the impression I’m getting. I’m open to being firmly corrected.

    Thanks.

  105. Thanks, Andrew, your last comment was helpful to somewhat clarify the issue. I admit I really missed your point the first time. :)

    There is a problem though with your solution. Jason specifically talked about Elizabeth and Zechariah going to heaven, and made no reference to purgatory, nor to the role of indulgences and the treasury of merits (to deal with remaining venial sins that are outside the scope of the perfection which he talked about). He sounded as if 1) the righteousness that God requires from us (so that we can go to heaven) is less than sinless perfection, and 2) that Spirit-wrought agape fulfills the law so we can be righteous enough to enter into heaven. If he really meant what you say he meant, then the exposition of his thesis is extremely misleading and needs modification.

    If Jason agrees with your explanation of his views, despite what he said (and didn’t say) earlier, his case still looks untenable to me for a hundred different reasons. He would have to show, for example, 1) how Elizabeth and Zechariah, being under the old covenant, could enjoy the new covenant gift of the Spirit (in Jason’s view the law-Spirit contrast in Roman 8:1-4 refers to the contrast between the powerlessness of the old covenant and the Spirit-given life of the new covenant), 2) how they can be blameless without having been baptized, 3) why Luke calls them blameless (which, according to Jason, certainly qualifies them for heaven) if they still had to be cleansed from many venial sins in purgatory to really qualify for heaven, etc.

    I think Jason still owes us a positive case for the Roman Catholic church and her theological system, too. He tried to poke holes on the Protestant system, demanding a positive case for it, but he didn’t show the same diligence when it came to giving a positive case for the strange claims of the Roman church. This is a double standard. One of his main criticisms against the Reformed scholars he had consulted with was that they poked holes on the RC system but did not offer a positive case for Protestantism. Jason poked holes on the Protestant system but did not offer a positive case for Roman Catholicism.

    For me to even begin to consider your version of Jason’s case as a plausible argument, Jason would have to prove that 1) you can be saved from hell being a law-breaker (like Elizabeth and Zechariah) without the righteousness of Christ covering your sins (contrary to Rom 3:23-26), 2) that fulfilling the law means less than sinlessness (contrary to Jas 2:10), 3) that baptism deals with original sin, 4) that there is such a place as purgatory, 5) that there is a difference between the way original sin and venial sins (whatever they are) should be dealt with, 6) that indulgences, pilgrimages, etc. can deal with venial sins, 7) that there is such a things as a treasury of merits, and 8) that all these strange and bizarre doctrines are the teachings of the apostles and not elements of another gospel (cf. Gal 1:6-8). And a lot more.

    What I did under this thread was to follow Jason’s exegetical argument to see whether it leads away from Protestantism and whether it brings me any closer to Rome. I have not touched on the first one (though my opinion is that Jason does a very poor exegesis), and my conclusion about the second one is that his exegesis (at least the way he put it) is problematic for the RC position, too. You are the first one, Andrew, who shows him a way out, but it is only a way out if Jason modifies his thesis and makes it more transparent. The problem is that once he does that he will sound even less persuasive to a Protestant because he would have to argue like a Catholic, with Catholic assumptions, which Protestants don’t share (or even abhor).

  106. Fr. Bryan,

    Re: your summary of my point.

    “Is that how you are approaching the conversation?”

    Well, not exactly.

    First, Jason doesn’t mention baptism with regard to Spirit-wrought righteousness. His example of Elizabeth and Zechariah would become a strange example, anyway, if baptism was the issue for him. Jason might have thought of baptism when contemplating on Spirit-wrought righteousness, but he doesn’t explicitly mention it. As I understand, his emphasis is more on blameless (though not sinless) behavior, exemplified by the parents of John the Baptist. I doubt that Jason would want to identify Spirit-wrought righteousness with the simple cleansing from original sin at baptism, otherwise he would not talk so much about the transformation involved in justification, including suffering for Christ.

    Second, Jason claims that Spirit-wrought-agape-righteousness-fulfilling-the-law is the perfection that is needed for final salvation (going to heaven). Jason unambiguously talks about final salvation (going to heaven) in the interview. He criticizes Protestant theology because in that system in order to go to heaven the single benefit of infused righteousness is not enough, you need something more (imputed righteousness). But obviously there is another kind of perfection needed in Catholicism, too, in order to qualify for heaven, which is proven by the belief in purgatory and the benefit given to believers from the treasury of merits.

    So Jason’s claim that infused righteousness renders imputed righteousness superfluous because infused righteousness fulfills the law in a way that we can go to heaven is untenable, I think.

  107. Jason (Response #48),

    Jason,

    Yes it does. The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three parts: The Misery of Man, God’s Deliverance, and Man’s Thankfulness.

    I said HC has no sections Justification and Sanctification. It is divided into three parts as you’ve enumerated.

    The section I quoted which said that even the holiest of men make but a small beginning in obedience (which you wrongly insisted was talking about obedience in reference to justification) is in the third section of the Catechism, the section dealing with sanctification.

    I’ve never said that the obedience referred to is talking about obedience in reference to justification. I explained what the nature of the imperfection of our obedience. The imperfection is in view of the concept that our works are not perfect to atone for sin to and reverse the verdict of condemnation. Only the Righteousness of Christ is accepted in our behalf as the perfect satisfaction that fulfilled the requirement of the Law; not our progressive sanctification.

    John the Baptist’s parents “were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blamelessly.” How, given your paradigm and what you just said, do you understand that passage in Luke 1?

    Luke 1:6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. –> I’ve heard you talk about this in your interview. Luke, often times, used the word “righteous” in a practical and relative sense describing the pattern of living shown by believers. This means that generally, they were in exemplary