King David’s Clean-Heart Gospel Passion

Jan 26th, 2018 | By Guest Author | Category: Blog Posts

This is a guest post by Jeremy de Haan. Jeremy was born and raised in the Canadian Reformed Churches. He received a Master of Divinity degree from the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario in 2016, and with his family was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at Easter, 2017. He tells the story of his conversion to the Catholic faith in “With Faces Thitherward: A Reformed Seminary Student’s Story.”


King David

What does it mean to be saved? The answer to that question drove the Reformers away from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, and continues to keep Reformed people away today. I received an email from a Reformed person sympathetic to key parts of the Catholic faith, but who said that the Reformed doctrine of justification was “too powerful” for him to become Catholic.

Here I want to present a simple, scriptural argument against the Reformed position. I’ll first briefly summarize the Reformed and Catholic answers to what it means to be saved. Then I’ll compare the two answers by looking at how salvation is described in the Psalms. What kind of good news did the Holy Spirit inspire King David to yearn for in his writings?1 Did David yearn for the good news as described in Reformed teaching, or for the good news as described in Catholic teaching?

I. Salvation in the Reformed and Catholic Traditions

a. The Reformed tradition

According to Reformed teaching, the good news of the gospel is about Christ having obeyed God in my place. The late R.C. Sproul writes,

The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it–or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself.2

That is what, according to Reformed teaching, it means to be saved. God’s holiness requires perfect obedience to Him, something I am unable to do. But Christ has done it in my place, and He imputes (transfers) His record of perfect obedience to me by faith alone. On account of that record, God declares me righteous, for when He sees me He sees His own Son. That is what justification is in Reformed thinking. It is a change in my status before God (unrighteous to righteous), but it is not a change in my soul. That latter change belongs to sanctification, which in Reformed thought must, for the very sake of the gospel, be kept distinct from justification. The heart of the good news is not about a transformation that happens inside me; the heart of the good news is about a transfer that happens outside me.

Just to drive home the seriousness of this, for many in the Reformed camp, the doctrine of imputation is what sets Christians apart from non-Christians. The thing that allegedly makes Rome a false church is not necessarily the veneration of the saints, transubstantiation, or the rejection of sola scriptura. It’s the rejection of the Reformed doctrine of imputation. Michael Horton speaks for the great majority of modern popular Reformed teachers in claiming that the doctrine of imputation is “the heart of the Gospel, without which the Gospel is no true Gospel at all.”3

b. The Catholic tradition

Okay, so what then what does the Catholic Church claim the good news is? According to her, the good news is that in Christ, God removes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh. That – the thing prophesied by Ezekiel in chapter 36 of his book – is what it means to be saved. This is the opposite of what the Reformed tradition claims. According to Catholic teaching, being justified doesn’t mean merely having your status changed before God – it means having your soul changed before God. The righteousness of Christ doesn’t cover you for the purpose of creating a new legal status for you; the righteousness of Christ pierces your heart to its black depths for the purpose of creating a new life for you.

In Catholic teaching, the Son obeyed the Father, even unto death on a cross, not so that He could give us a record of perfect obedience, but so that He could give us an obedient heart. Since Adam’s fall, we all receive his heart, the stone heart that died through his disobedience. But by faith we receive Christ’s heart, a heart of flesh that never for a moment was severed from God, a heart that walked with God in the garden in the cool of the day every moment of Christ’s life.

By a power greater than that by which He raised the dead, Christ raises us to new life in God. By means of that great work, He makes us righteous before God. That’s what it means to be justified in Catholic teaching. It means that it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us [Ga. 2:20]. Where Reformed teaching claims that the integrity of the gospel depends on the good news not being about internal transformation, the Catholic Church teaches that that’s precisely what the good news is all about.

II. Salvation in the Psalms

So, let’s test these two accounts against the Psalms. The Psalms are filled with longing for the salvation of God, reverberating with a call for deliverance not just from physical enemies, or even spiritual ones, but from David’s own sinfulness and rebellion. The Psalms not only foreshadow the gospel; they orient the compass of our desires to find their satisfaction and completion in the good news of Christ. By looking at the longing expressed in the Psalms, then, we can learn more about the nature of the gift God has given us in Christ.

What, then, is the salvation David longs for? When David was confronted with sin, especially his own, what was the good news the Spirit prompted him to seek? Did he long for someone to obey the law in his place? Did he seek a righteousness in the form of the imputed obedience of another? That must be the case if the Reformed account of salvation is correct. According to Michael Horton, as quoted above, if David was not seeking some form of that, then he was seeking no true gospel at all. Or did David long instead for God to transform his heart? Did he seek instead a righteousness in the form of the steadfast love by which God restores the hearts of sinners to Himself? If so, then David is longing for the very thing the Catholic Church claims is the good news of salvation.

So, for King David, what does it mean to be saved?

a. Psalm 19

In Psalm 19 (ESV translation and numbering), David speaks about sin and redemption:

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer [Ps.19:12-14].

Here, David calls the Lord, “My redeemer.” But what is the redemptive work in view here? Is it that the Lord changes David’s status before Him based on the perfect obedience of another? Or is it that the Lord changes David’s soul? David speaks here only in terms of the soul. He implores God to protect him from sin; to keep his speech holy; and for his inner spiritual life to be pleasing to God. It is in this that David’s redemption lies, for it’s this activity of God that prompts David to praise the Lord as his “redeemer.”

b. Psalm 25

A few psalms later, in Psalm 25, David speaks of “the God of my salvation.” He begins the psalm with a plea to be delivered from his enemies, and not to be put to shame. He sets his spiritual distress before God. And what is the solution to that distress? He writes,

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long [Ps.25:4-5].

The solution David desires here is that his soul would be conformed to God’s own life. The call of David’s distressed heart finds its response in the Lord making David to know His ways, leading David in His truth, and teaching him. David’s need for salvation is not answered in someone else obeying God in David’s place. His need for salvation is satisfied in the fashioning of his soul after the heart of God.

This is expressed even more powerfully near the end of the psalm:

Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you [25:18-21].

Here, David pleas for deliverance and preservation. But again, he does not find that deliverance and preservation in the perfect obedience of another. He finds his “refuge” in God, at the same time looking to his “integrity and uprightness” for preservation. Clearly, that integrity and uprightness is the result of God’s work in David’s heart, for the Lord is “good and upright,” and “instructs sinners in the way” [v.8]. David’s heart is a heart in fellowship with the Lord, and it is in that internal fellowship that David finds his refuge and salvation.

c. Psalm 51

Or look at Psalm 51, which David wrote after his sin with Bathsheba. This was spiritual rock bottom for David. If ever he needed deliverance from sin, if ever his heart expressed its need for gospel redemption, this was it. And in the face of his most egregious sin, what is the cry of his soul?

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! [v.2]

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow [v.7].

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me [v.10].

It is in view of these pleas that David then asks, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” [v.12]. The salvation in which David finds joy is a salvation that consists in God washing him, purging him, and creating in him a new heart. It’s something that God does to David’s soul. This psalm, above all others, shows the contrast between the darkness of sin and the light of God’s salvation. And yet the light for which David longs is not the imputed obedience of another. The righteousness of which David speaks in verse 14, “My tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness,” is not something that comes to David in the form of the imputed obedience of another. Instead, it comes to him in the form of the steadfast love by which God restores the hearts of sinners to Himself.

d. Psalm 143

In Psalm 143, David famously writes, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” [Ps.143:2]. You’d think that here would be the perfect time for David to cry out for a salvation whereby God delivers him through the imputed righteousness of another. But David says no such thing. In his earnest supplication of God’s deliverance, he writes,

Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! [Ps.143:7-11]

The salvation that David is so desperate for is that God should “make me know the way I should go,” and “teach me to do your will,” and “let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” In the face of the fact that no one is righteous before God, David does not seek the perfect obedience of another. He seeks instead a heart that is transformed by God’s righteousness, a righteous heart of his own locked onto God’s ways and led by God’s Spirit. In that lies his deliverance.

e. Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is the longest meditation on God’s law in Scripture. Surely there, if anywhere, we would find David being prompted to cry out for someone to obey God’s law in his place. Yet the entire thing, from top to bottom, describes a salvation in which David’s own heart is made right with God. Righteousness doesn’t come to David as someone else’s perfect obedience; rather, it comes to David as a heart fashioned after all the ways of God:

My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes. I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies! [119:123-25].

Here, David looks ahead with the eyes of his heart to God’s salvation. Yet when he elaborates on that salvation, when he describes “the fulfillment of [God’s] righteous promise,” he does so in terms of the Lord teaching him and giving him understanding. He looks to the Lord to transform his soul. He writes later,

Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. [173-76].

Again, here, David yearns for the salvation of God. And again, that salvation is expressed in terms of God transforming David’s heart: “Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.” It is in the life of his soul that David finds the thing for which he hungers.

f. Psalm 32

Finally, there’s Psalm 32. Paul quotes this psalm in Romans 4 in the middle of a discussion on justification, so it’s directly relevant to this post. Reformed teachers will point to Romans 4 as a proof text for their understanding of imputation, with Protestant apologist James White going so far as to call Romans 4:4-6, “the Protestant verses.” Here are the verses in which Paul quotes the psalm:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” [Rm. 4:4-8 ESV].

Paul quotes David here because David “speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works.” So, what does David reveal about that person in Psalm 32? Is he someone whose salvation consists in the imputed obedience of another, or in having received a new heart?

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit [Ps.32:1-2].

This blessed person of whom David speaks, the one whom Paul says is “the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works,” is someone “whose transgression is forgiven” and more to the point, is someone “in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Again, there is no suggestion here that David is speaking of a salvation that consists in receiving the imputed obedience of another; but there is plain and direct evidence for a salvation that consists in receiving a new and holy heart. And Paul refers to the very person described by David as an illustration of what he’s talking about in Romans 4. To be counted righteous by God is not to have received Christ’s record of perfect obedience, but to have received Christ’s life in the depths of your heart.

Romans 4 itself confirms this. Paul writes that a believer’s “faith is counted as righteousness.” Reformed teaching holds that our righteousness is found entirely in Christ’s imputed record of obedience; in no way is that righteousness found in our own hearts. But Paul here says that a believer’s faith – something internal, something in the heart of the believer – is counted by God as righteousness. This is precisely what the Catholic Church teaches about the nature of the gospel. The gospel is about what God does not only to our status, but most importantly to our souls – and thereby to our status. It is in receiving in our hearts the righteousness of Christ that God declares us to be truly righteous.

III. Conclusion

You could go on through the Psalms yourself asking the question I’ve been asking here: what, for King David, does it mean to be saved? What was the salvation for which the Holy Spirit strained the eye of David’s heart? Was it what the Heidelberg Catechism claims is the good news?

God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart [Question and answer 60].

Did David long for a salvation in which God “accomplished all the obedience” in David’s place? Or did David long for what the Catechism of the Catholic Church claims is the good news?

Justification is [in addition to being forgiven of all sins] the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us [CCC 1991].

David repeatedly and emphatically longs for a heart transformed by “the rectitude (steadfastness) of divine love,” and longs for “obedience to the divine will” being granted to him. He longs for a righteousness that pierces his heart and makes alive what was formerly dead, a gospel encapsulated by the words, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” [Ga.2:20].

This isn’t a small point. The Psalms teach us how to desire God and how to thirst after His salvation. They create in us a spiritual appetite that is satisfied abundantly in the good news of the gospel. And when confronted with the sin and rebellion of the human heart, David, and the Spirit of God through him, does not teach us to long for the imputed obedience of another. The appetite he forms in us isn’t for what R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton, and many others claim is the good news. He teaches us to long instead for the good news of new and obedient hearts that Ezekiel proclaims. He teaches us to long for a gospel that consists in God fashioning our hearts after His own steadfast love. That is the call that receives its yes and amen in the good news of Jesus Christ. And that is the good news the Catholic Church has been proclaiming for two thousand years.

  1. I recognize that David himself did not write all the Psalms, but whenever the New Testament writers refer to the author of the Psalms, they refer to “David.” I prefer to use the same tradition in my own writing. []
  2. What is the Gospel?” []
  3. https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/infusionimputation.html []
Tags: Imputation, Justification, Reformed Theology, Scripture, Soteriology

66 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. […] Read the rest of the post over at Called to Communion: /2018/01/king-davids-clean-heart-gospel-passion/ […]

  2. I’d like to add some further thoughts on the Psalm 32 commentary. I think it’s crucial to point out that Paul only speaks of sin being “not imputed” here (32:2), which is not at all what a Protestant should be expecting. Putting imputation ‘negatively’ here, Paul throws a wrench in the Protestant understanding of imputation as a transfer, since now Paul is saying “Blessed is the man whose sins are not transferred,” which is obviously not what Paul/David is getting at. For all the talk of “Adam’s sin being imputed to us” and “our sin being imputed to Christ,” it is important to note that the Bible only speaks of sin as “not” being imputed.

    Furthermore, the point in Romans 4 is that Abraham was justified prior to circumcision. So what does this have to do with David? Well, as I see it, as Paul says in Rom 2:25, “if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.” This must mean that when David committed murder/adultery, he effectively lost his circumcision/covenant status, since murder could not be atoned for under the Mosaic Law (Num 35:31-33). This means that Paul’s point is that something ‘outside of the Mosaic Law’ was responsible for David being saved, forgiven, etc. Abraham and David didn’t rely (essentially) on the Mosaic Law to be in covenant relationship with God.

    And so while Paul explicitly says Psalm 32 is a proof of “reckoning righteousness” – despite David never speaking of “righteousness” in Psalm 32 – this can only mean “reckon righteousness” is another way of saying “forgiveness of sin” and “not imputing sin”. This also throws a wrench in Protestant exegesis, because if to “reckon righteousness” is *equivalent* to “not imputing sin,” then it makes no sense to read forgiving/nonimputing cannot be a way of saying “impute Christ’s perfect obedience” (which also contradicts the Christian duty to personally “fulfill the law” Gal 5:14, Rom 13:8-13). Rather, I see it like a shirt that was cleaned from a stain, either we can “reckon cleanlieness” to the shirt or we can “not reckon stain” to the shirt (since it was washed away), and we’d be saying the same thing.

  3. Thank you for this distinction. I’ve been hoping for a more detailed treatment of imputed righteousness versus infused righteousness for a while and this really helps!

  4. Thank you for this insightful article, Jeremy. I have a few comments to add.

    1) With regard to your discussion of Psalm 143, it may be useful to note that Psalm 142:2 LXX (143:2 English) is cited by Paul at a key point in his discussion of justification in both Romans (3:20) and Galatians (2:16). This suggests that the moralistic, soul-centered view of righteousness that (as you have rightly pointed out) pervades the rest of this psalm was in Paul’s mind as well.
    2) Having said that, it seems clear to me that the δικαιο- word group in Romans (“justify,” “justification,” “righteousness,” etc.) does sometimes carry a forensic, legal connotation. For instance, in Rom. 5:16, 18, δικαίωμα and δικαίωσις stands opposite to κατάκριμα (BDAG: “judicial pronouncement upon a guilty person, condemnation”), which is clearly a legal term. Rom. 6:7 states that a dead person has been absolved (verb: δικαιόω) from sin, which cannot mean he has been made morally upright. Again, in Rom. 8:33-34, δικαιόω (“justify”) is explicitly contrasted with the legal notions of bringing charges and condemning.
    3) Given the explicit contrast in Romans 5:12-19 between condemnation and justification brought about through two respective men (Adam and Jesus), it may be helpful to draw an analogy between original sin and justification. Original sin comes upon all in a forensic sense from conception, simply because we belong to Adam’s race. It also deforms the image of God within us so that we become susceptible to transgression, and in time we “cooperate” with original sin and, as it were, ratify the sentence of condemnation upon us by becoming ontologically, morally sinful. In a similar way, righteousness comes one in a forensic sense from the moment of new birth (sacramental baptism, from a Catholic perspective), simply because we belong to the Church. Also, the Spirit works in us to reform us in God’s image and make us susceptible to uprightness, and in this way we “cooperate” with God and, as it were, ratify the sentence of justification/acquittal upon us by becoming ontologically, morally righteous.
    4) In light of 3), it seems to me that a forensic, legal understanding of justification is not at odds with Catholic doctrine. As you’ve put it, “According to Catholic teaching, being justified doesn’t mean merely having your status changed before God”. It does not merely mean that; it means that and much more.

    Consider the following statements endorsed by the Catholic/Lutheran 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification:
    “… a faith centered and forensically conceived picture of justification is of major importance for Paul and, in a sense, for the Bible as a whole, although it is by no means the only biblical or Pauline way of representing God’s saving work” (Justification by Faith, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, Minneapolis, 1985, no. 146).
    “By justification we are both declared and made righteous. Justification, therefore, is not a legal fiction. God, in justifying, effects what he promises; he forgives sin and makes us truly righteous” (Justification by Faith, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, Minneapolis, 1985, no. 156,5).

    The difference between the Reformed and Catholic views of justification is not that Reformed take a forensic view and Catholics take a spiritual view. Rather, the difference is that the Reformed regard forensic and spiritual/moral notions of justification as mutually exclusive, whereas Catholics take a comprehensive view that encompasses forensic and spiritual dimensions within a process that begins with baptism, continues through the spiritual life with the aid of the sacraments and culminates an acquittal at judgment and admission into God’s eternal presence. It seems that only the comprehensive Catholic view is a synthesis of all the biblical testimony, including that of the psalms, Paul, James (2:21-25), and dominical sayings such as Matt. 12:37 and Luke 18:14. (One could add passages from the early Apostolic Fathers that clearly teach a spiritual view of justification, such as Epistle of Barnabas 4.10 and Hermas, Visions 3.9.1-2; Mandates 5.1.7; Similitudes 5.7.1-2.)

    In short, the Catholic view sees forensic and spiritual/moral justification as “both/and” while the Reformed view sees them as “either/or”. Indeed, the tendency to see theology in “both/and” rather than “either/or” terms is a key difference between Catholicism and Protestantism across the board (G.K. Chesterton emphasized the both/and of Catholic Christianity in his classic book Orthodoxy). Catholicism wants to hold dualities in sometimes paradoxical tension (of which the most famous example is Chalcedonian Christology), rather than reducing them to either/or antitheses.

  5. I recall, during the year that I was discerning whether I had to become a Catholic or not (I did :-)), being puzzled by talking to my Reformed friends and our pastor about the Psalms. They seemed so strongly to point to the essential place of ‘works.’ The Reformed explanations appeared to say several mutually compatible things:

    1) The Psalms that said the Psalmist was righteous were actually prophetically to be read as from the mouth of the Messiah (which I think is true, but not in contradiction with the reading that they are the Psalmist speaking of himself);

    2) These Psalms were a kind of hypothetical statement that did not, in fact, apply to anyone except the Messiah;

    3) These Psalms were a reference to the imputed righteousness of the believer.

    I appreciate your article, Jeremy. Some 23 years ago I decided to take the Scriptures pretty much at their face value :-)

    jj

  6. I’m quite surprised the author thinks Reformed people don’t believe God turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh? Is it not a mischaracterization to say Reformed people don’t believe their whole being changes through justification? After all, Ephesians says we were one-hundred-percent dead in sin, before God made us alive in Christ – to me this does sound like a complete transformation.

  7. Hi Melody,

    I’m quite surprised the author thinks Reformed people don’t believe God turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh?

    In my summary of Reformed teaching, I wrote this: “That is what justification is in Reformed thinking. It is a change in my status before God (unrighteous to righteous), but it is not a change in my soul. That latter change belongs to sanctification, which in Reformed thought must, for the very sake of the gospel, be kept distinct from justification.”

    So, yes, I am aware that Reformed people believe that we receive new hearts. But in Reformed teaching, regeneration is not what it means to be righteous before God. That righteousness is found solely in the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to us. In Reformed teaching, that is the thing without which there’s no good news. That’s why Reformed thinkers, like R.C. Sproul in the quote in the article, can explain the gospel without any reference to receiving a new heart.

    Is it not a mischaracterization to say Reformed people don’t believe their whole being changes through justification?

    No, that’s not a mischaracterization. In Reformed teaching, justification is not a change in one’s whole being. Justification is a declaration of “righteous” on the basis of Christ’s righteousness having been imputed to the believer. The reason the Reformed believe that Rome teaches a false gospel is because she teaches that the declaration of “righteous” is on the basis of Christ’s righteousness having transformed the believer’s whole being.

    After all, Ephesians says we were one-hundred-percent dead in sin, before God made us alive in Christ – to me this does sound like a complete transformation.

    Yep, sounds like that to me, too.

    -Jeremy

  8. It could also be added, tangentially, that the “cleansing heart” motif is what the Council of Jerusalem taught, when Peter said: “[God] made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. … we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:8-11). Clearly, Peter is talking about Justification here, as that was the Judaizer dispute.

  9. “After all, Ephesians says we were one-hundred-percent dead in sin, before God made us alive in Christ – to me this does sound like a complete transformation” – to quote myself. So is not this dead-to-alive process something God does (as we were dead)? Or hearts of stone being turned to hearts of flesh something that God does? So is righteousness not something that God works, though obviously we’re utterly transformed (dead to alive, stone to flesh) as a result? This is where I’m not following, I think. I guess I’m trying to say the Reformed understanding I know of feels broader than your description of it – though your narrower description is certainly used to show that we’re not saved because we deserve it because we now have hearts of flesh.

    I’m sure this is jumping into the middle of a long discussion that I haven’t been following, so I don’t mean to make anyone go over ground already covered.

  10. Hi Melody,

    Yes, Reformed people certainly believe that God transforms believers. That’s the doctrine of sanctification, and that’s not in dispute in my post. What is in dispute is whether that transformation is a transformation into someone who is actually righteous before God. That is, when God counts someone righteousness, is it because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to him, or because Christ’s righteousness has made him actually, internally righteous?

    I’m arguing that in the Psalms we find David longing to be made actually, internally righteous before God. For him, that’s what salvation is. Another way of saying it, is that in David’s understanding of salvation, imputation would be superfluous. The very essence of salvation would be that-which-does-not-require-imputation, since David would himself have been made righteous by Christ’s righteousness.

    Allow me to reiterate. My claim is not that David simply wants transformation. That would be an obvious claim with which no Reformed person would disagree. Rather, my claim is that the transformation David desires is the sort that allows him to stand truly righteous before God. That is a claim that Reformed people cannot agree with – or if they do, then they’ve embraced the Catholic understanding of the gospel.

    – Jeremy

  11. My apologies – it really did seem like you thought Reformed theology completely decoupled this new heart and justification
    (in your section contrasting the two theologies)

  12. Jeremy,

    What is in dispute is whether that transformation is a transformation into someone who is actually righteous before God. That is, when God counts someone righteousness, is it because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to him, or because Christ’s righteousness has made him actually, internally righteous?

    Depends on what you are talking about. Are you speaking legally or ontologically. By conflating the two in the RC system, you actually get a situation where no one is actually transformed by Christ’s righteousness in this life except for a few very special saints. Everyone else gets a clean slate at baptism and then has some indeterminate amount of time in purgatory for Christ’s righteousness to do its work so that God can finally pronounce you righteous.

  13. Melody,

    I guess I’m trying to say the Reformed understanding I know of feels broader than your description of it.

    That’s because it is broader.

    Justification via imputation is often stressed because that is the dividing line with Rome and the only way to have assurance of salvation.

    But this idea from Jeremy is just wrong:

    Rather, my claim is that the transformation David desires is the sort that allows him to stand truly righteous before God. That is a claim that Reformed people cannot agree with – or if they do, then they’ve embraced the Catholic understanding of the gospel.

    Of course Reformed people want a transformation that enables them to stand truly righteous before God. The question is whether this is possible in this life, and to that the Bible gives a resounding answer of no. 1 John 1:8–10. We can never say at any point that we are entirely without sin, and that’s what it takes to be truly and fully righteous.

    And, of course, even once transformation has been completed in glory, there still is the matter of a lack of perfection up until that point. You still need the perfect righteousness of Christ in glory to cover your record from birth so that, from start to finish, there has been no failure to obey God.

  14. Jeremy,

    The Reformed interpretation of various Gospel passages, wherein Christ commands “perfect righteousness,” is to deem such as impossible standards. (cf Mt 5:20, Mt 5:48) That interpretation shows us that our Lord is merely demonstrating that absolute perfection cannot be achieved by sinful man, and therefore, man can only turn to Him and rely entirely on His righteousness to be justified. Even righteous, albeit sinful, Isaiah who declared his righteous acts to be like filthy rags (Is 64:6) could not attain to the impossible standard of heavenly perfection.

    How do you respond to that Reformed exegesis?

  15. Robert, (re: #12)

    Your argument presupposes that there is no distinction between mortal and venial sin, between guilt and debt, and between eternal debt and temporal debt. But these three distinctions are recognized in the Catholic tradition. So your argument presupposes the falsehood of the Catholic tradition. And an argument that presupposes the falsehood of the position it is opposing commits the fallacy of begging the question, i.e. presupposes precisely what it is attempting to show.

    On the distinction between mortal and venial sin, see “Why John Calvin did not Recognize the Distinction Between Mortal and Venial Sin.” On the distinction between guilt and debt, see comment #192 of the “Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement” thread. On the distinction between eternal debt and temporal debt, see this section of “St. Thomas Aquinas on Penance.” This paradigmatic difference between the traditions was the point of my 2012 post “Imputations and Paradigms: A Reply to Nicholas Batzig,” and my comments in the thread under that post. See also my 2015 post on purgatory.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. Bryan,

    I recognize that RCism makes the distinction. But regardless of how you parse it, you aren’t righteous enough to be actually inherently righteous in RCism until you’ve paid off all your temporal debt. Otherwise, you’d go straight to heaven at death.

  17. Robert (re: #16)

    But regardless of how you parse it, you aren’t righteous enough to be actually inherently righteous in RCism until you’ve paid off all your temporal debt. Otherwise, you’d go straight to heaven at death.

    This is not about “parsing” or spin, but about being truthful and fair in our argumentation, especially in our description of the other person’s position/tradition. As for your argument (“you aren’t righteous enough to be actually inherently righteous in RCism until you’ve paid off all your temporal debt. Otherwise, you’d go straight to heaven at death”), that conclusion is not entailed by that premise. The conclusion would follow only if we were restricted to the [Protestant] conception of [non-imputed] righteousness, which, as I already explained in my previous comment, does not make the three distinctions I noted there. But in the Catholic tradition, a person can be in a state of grace, and therefore be “inherently righteous” even if he or she has some remaining debt of temporal punishment. See the links I posted in my previous comment. So, once again, by presupposing the Protestant conception of righteousness in your argument against Catholicism, you’re committing the fallacy of begging the question, i.e. presupposing in your argumentation precisely what you’re trying to show. And what we at CTC are requesting (see the comment guide) is that in our (all who participate here) argumentation, we diligently strive to avoid fallacies, because fallacies make dialogue futile for resolving disagreements. They are the equivalent of pounding the table and insisting that one’s own position is correct. So we have to rise above that in order to make possible the kind of dialogue that is fruitful for resolving disagreements, even theological disagreements.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  18. Hi Robert,

    I guess I’m trying to say the Reformed understanding I know of feels broader than your description of it.

    That’s because it is broader.

    Justification via imputation is often stressed because that is the dividing line with Rome and the only way to have assurance of salvation.

    If things are “broader” than what I’ve stated, then what, in your mind, needs to be added to the imputed righteousness of Christ in order to be righteous before God? If your answer is “nothing,” then my description is exactly as narrow as it should be.

    Of course Reformed people want a transformation that enables them to stand truly righteous before God. The question is whether this is possible in this life, and to that the Bible gives a resounding answer of no. 1 John 1:8–10. We can never say at any point that we are entirely without sin, and that’s what it takes to be truly and fully righteous.

    I realize that Reformed people believe that in heaven, a person is truly righteous. That’s not what this post was about. This post is about the good news of the gospel as it applies to us in this life. And just as you said, you believe that Scripture “gives a resounding no” to the question as to whether we can be truly righteous. That simply confirms what I’ve said about the Reformed position in both the article and the comments.

    But what I’ve argued is that the longing expressed by David in the Psalms does not support the Reformed position. David never speaks of righteousness as being something imputed to us from another; rather, he speaks of righteousness in terms of having a righteous heart. But where you give “a resounding no” to David’s desire for a righteous heart in this life, the Catholic Church teaches that the gospel gives a resounding yes. That is precisely the good news of Jesus Christ. To be in Christ, the Catholic Church teaches, is to be in possession of a truly righteous heart.

    Regarding your comment about 1 John 1:8-10, you equate “righteous” with being “entirely without sin,” but you give no reason why that’s the case. Asserting it as though it settles the matter simply begs the question. In Scripture, we find people like Noah, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and David being described as “righteous” and “blameless.” But none of those people were “entirely without sin.” Therefore, in Scripture, “righteous” is not synonymous with “entirely without sin.”

    Neither is it in Catholic teaching. In Catholic teaching, “righteous” is equated with having a righteous heart, not with being entirely without sin. The righteous person will still commit venial sins. That is how Catholics understand Zechariah and Elizabeth to have walked “blamelessly in in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” [Lu.1:6 ESV]. It doesn’t mean they never sinned in the way that Christ never sinned. It means that their sins were such that those sins did not make them unrighteous or blameworthy. But as Bryan pointed out, that’s been hashed out at multiple places on this site, and I’d encourage you to read those posts and the comments.

  19. Of course Reformed people want a transformation that enables them to stand truly righteous before God. The question is whether this is possible in this life, and to that the Bible gives a resounding answer of no. 1 John 1:8–10. We can never say at any point that we are entirely without sin, and that’s what it takes to be truly and fully righteous.

    I am confused why 1 John 1:8-10 was brought up as a prooftext against the “cleansing my heart” motif when in the very verse St John says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This verse plainly says ALL unrighteousness is cleansed. This would seem like a logical place for St John to tell us that we need Imputed Righteousness, but instead St John says salvation comes by a full cleansing, as often as we fall into sin and confess them.

  20. Joe,

    There’s no reason to interpret those passages as some “impossible standard” (that presupposes the whole “list paradigm” as opposed to the “agape paradigm” which has been covered on this site many times) for believers – the standard is simply, are you (by virtue of the indwelling of the holy spirit and sanctifying grace) fulfilling the royal law? And all the NT writers affirm believers can and must do so to be saved. No imputation needed.

    Your verses are in the context of the sermon on the mount, which is an exposition on the agape paradigm and what the OT law was pointing to as its fulfillment. As Aquinas writes,
    “We must therefore say that, according to the first way, the New Law is not distinct from the Old Law: because they both have the same end, namely, man’s subjection to God; and there is but one God of the New and of the Old Testament, according to Romans 3:30: “It is one God that justifieth circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” According to the second way, the New Law is distinct from the Old Law: because the Old Law is like a pedagogue of children, as the Apostle says (Galatians 3:24), whereas the New Law is the law of perfection, since it is the law of charity, of which the Apostle says (Colossians 3:14) that it is “the bond of perfection.””

    So when it is stated, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”, it is not some meticulous letter-keeping perfection in view, but rather the spirit of the law and principle undergirding the law, that is the agape paradigm. It is immediately preceded by “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” – it is not some “impossible standard” for believers indwelt by the Trinity and agape to love enemies or strangers.

  21. Jeremy,

    But what I’ve argued is that the longing expressed by David in the Psalms does not support the Reformed position. David never speaks of righteousness as being something imputed to us from another; rather, he speaks of righteousness in terms of having a righteous heart. But where you give “a resounding no” to David’s desire for a righteous heart in this life, the Catholic Church teaches that the gospel gives a resounding yes. That is precisely the good news of Jesus Christ. To be in Christ, the Catholic Church teaches, is to be in possession of a truly righteous heart.

    First of all, to be in Christ, according to Reformed thought is to possess a righteous heart. All who are justified are actually sanctified.

    Second, while I would quibble about David not looking for imputation, I could just as well point out that David never longs for Eucharistic union via transubstantiation, so therefore the RC view of the Eucharist is invalid.

    Therefore, in Scripture, “righteous” is not synonymous with “entirely without sin.”

    It all depends on the context. If you’re speaking legally, it is entirely without sin. If you are speaking more ontologically, it generally refers to being free of major sin. The better word for this is blameless.

    Jesus evidently thought being righteous enough to attain even involves being entirely without sin. He didn’t argue with the rich young ruler that he had kept the commandments that he listed, after all. That man was awfully blameless. It wasn’t enough.

    Neither is it in Catholic teaching. In Catholic teaching, “righteous” is equated with having a righteous heart, not with being entirely without sin. The righteous person will still commit venial sins. That is how Catholics understand Zechariah and Elizabeth to have walked “blamelessly in in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” [Lu.1:6 ESV]. It doesn’t mean they never sinned in the way that Christ never sinned. It means that their sins were such that those sins did not make them unrighteous or blameworthy. But as Bryan pointed out, that’s been hashed out at multiple places on this site, and I’d encourage you to read those posts and the comments.

    But if you look at the longing of David in the various Psalms, it’s pretty clear that he’s looking not just for blamelessness but for thorough cleansing. He’s looking for a perfection that he keeps falling short of. It’s why he can call himself both righteous and unrighteous in nearly the same breath throughout the Psalter. So if you are right about David, then Romanism can’t provide what David is looking for either.

    But again, if we step back for a moment. Rome doesn’t actually provide the righteousness that we need to attain heaven for most people in this life. And that’s really my only point. Call the baptized person free of mortal sin righteous all you want, but if the best that can get you is a stay in purgatory to get the temporal punishment for the sins that keep you out of heaven off of your record, you don’t really have righteousness, at least the righteousness that matters.

  22. Cletus,

    There’s no reason to interpret those passages as some “impossible standard” (that presupposes the whole “list paradigm” as opposed to the “agape paradigm” which has been covered on this site many times) for believers – the standard is simply, are you (by virtue of the indwelling of the holy spirit and sanctifying grace) fulfilling the royal law?

    Actually, there is, since even RCism has its version of the “list paradigm.” If you didn’t, there would be no purgatory. Your system likewise mandates achieving a state in which you have no sin and no debt left to repay.

    So the only question is, how does one get that perfect legal record? In Reformed thought, it is via imputation. In RCism, it’s via your cooperation with grace through penance and purgatory to purge the debt and imperfection from your record.

  23. Jeremy,

    I’d also add that David isn’t looking for a righteous heart that is a temporary gift with respect to this life and that you keep only by sufficiently cooperating with grace. There’s no, “Oh, Lord, wipe away my original sin with baptism and give me a pure heart that it is then up to me to hold onto via my sufficient cooperation with grace and that I could very well lose.” He wants a permanent, irreversible change that perseveres.

  24. Hi Robert (#23),

    I’d also add that David isn’t looking for a righteous heart that is a temporary gift with respect to this life and that you keep only by sufficiently cooperating with grace. There’s no, “Oh, Lord, wipe away my original sin with baptism and give me a pure heart that it is then up to me to hold onto via my sufficient cooperation with grace and that I could very well lose.” He wants a permanent, irreversible change that perseveres.

    First, you claim in #21 that you believe we are “actually sanctified,” but when you speak of the practical effects of that sanctification here, that is, when you speak of what a regenerate and sanctified believer united with Christ is able to do, you opt for pessimism and mockery. If those responsible for “sufficient cooperation with grace” are unregenerate sinners acting apart from grace, then your pessimism would be warranted. But if those responsible for “sufficient cooperation with grace” are those who no longer live, but in whom Christ lives, and those for whom cooperation with grace is itself a gift of grace, then your pessimism is unwarranted. In fact, your pessimism would be nothing but pessimism toward the gifts of the Spirit of God Himself. So, what do the Scriptures say? Why not point to a single place where the Apostles express the very same pessimism as you toward being a new creation by the Spirit in Christ?

    Second, you make claims about what David wants, but again, you provide no scriptural evidence for those claims. As it is, the Psalms don’t support your claims. In Psalm 51:12, David asks God to “uphold me with a willing spirit.” David asks to be “upheld” by being given a “willing spirit” from God. You could replace the word “willing” with “cooperating,” and you have David asking for precisely the thing you claim he doesn’t ask for: “Give me a pure heart that it is then up to me [in possession of the divine gift of a willing spirit] to hold onto via my sufficient cooperation with grace [a cooperation that is itself a gift from God].”

    Regarding the fact that David could “very well lose” the gift of life with God, the psalms show us repeatedly that that can, and did, happen. Psalm 51 itself is a plea for God to grant to David the salvation he lost through sin. In Psalm 30, David writes, “O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit” [Ps.30:3]. The phrase “restored me to life” indicates that David had been in a place of life, but had been brought to a place of death (Sheol). This happened because David had become prideful [v.6], invoking God’s anger [v.5] and the turning away of His face [v.7]. So yes, the life we have with God can be destroyed by sin, taking us to a place of death. Further, David does not indicate that this restoration to life couldn’t be lost again should he choose to sin again. If David does in fact desire a salvation in which no future sin, no matter how bad, could bring him down to Sheol, then you will have to demonstrate that.

    Finally, if your beef with all this is the doctrine of purgatory (from comments #21 and #22), then I’d invite you to study that doctrine more thoroughly. Purgatory is, in its essence, the loving discipline of our heavenly Father [Hb.12] that we experience after death. More importantly, it’s for those who are assuredly going to heaven. So, your claim that those in purgatory don’t have “the righteousness that matters” (#21) is not Catholic teaching. Purgatory is for the righteous and blameless children of God whose entrance into eternal glory is assured, but who have not reached the maturity necessary to enjoy that glory to its fullness. Therefore, the Catholic Church’s teaching on purgatory simply isn’t contrary to the righteousness I’m speaking of here.

    – Jeremy

  25. This is a great article — I rarely see the Psalms used in such a rigorous way. I don’t want to de-rail the specific soteriological conversation, but I’d appreciate perspectives on how one can get more mileage out of the Psalms. I get a ton out of the typological aspects in the OT; I get a ton out of the NT letters; the Gospels are inexhaustible. But when it comes to the Psalm readings in Mass, I always scratch my head a bit.

    First, why do translators/scholars/lectors go to such great pains to ensure that the actual words of the OT/NT readings are accurately written and proclaimed, but when it comes to the Psalms, the spoken/sung words are almost always jumbled. It reminds me of a high school student who copies someone else’s research paper by just flipping the original sentence structures and using a thesaurus to change every other word.

    Second, maybe it’s just my personality or bias, but the Psalms strike me as less substantive and propositional, as compared to other Scriptural texts. With the exception of the great article and discussion above, I have a hard time getting much out of the Psalms — they occasionally shed some light on the other readings, but often they seem like isolated praises/complaints with repetitive statements about God’s mighty right arm.

    I certainly don’t mean to disparage or belittle Sacred Scripture in any way, but the fact that this article/discussion approaches the Psalms in a rigorous way makes me realize that I might be missing out on a lot of Scriptural depth and power (everyone who is anyone in Christianity has loved the Psalms). Any suggestions are appreciated!

  26. Markesquire, you may find this book helpful :) I’m placing my pre-order today!

    https://www.amazon.com/Psalm-Basics-Catholics-Salvation-History-ebook/dp/B077BRY8PD/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1517843658&sr=8-2

  27. Hi Mark,

    I think the best way to get the most out of the Psalms is simply to pray them, for that’s their purpose. I’d highly recommend praying part of the Liturgy of the Hours every day, since the backbone of the Hours is the Psalms. I use this abridged version:

    http://amzn.to/2E6VkFy

    And here’s a video that explains how to use the book to pray the morning and evening prayers:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khtmZOQr57w

    Praying the Psalms is the best way to get intimate with them, and to see their value to the faith. They show us the interiority of a mind, heart, and strength in loving submission to God, and thus set a pattern for our own interior life. But they also have a great deal of doctrinal significance. The Apostles quote the Psalms more than any other Old Testament book, and do so in many different contexts. There’s Psalm 32 being quoted by Paul in Romans 4, but also, as Thomas pointed out in comment #4, there’s Psalm 143 being quoted in Romans 3. David’s words about righteousness are central to Paul’s teaching on justification. The author of Hebrews, too, quotes the Psalms in his discussions on Christ as the Son of God and the atonement. You can find websites that list all the places in the New Testament where the Psalms are quoted and alluded to, showing just how broadly they apply to Christian faith and practice.

    Jeremy

  28. First, you claim in #21 that you believe we are “actually sanctified,” but when you speak of the practical effects of that sanctification here, that is, when you speak of what a regenerate and sanctified believer united with Christ is able to do, you opt for pessimism and mockery. If those responsible for “sufficient cooperation with grace” are unregenerate sinners acting apart from grace, then your pessimism would be warranted. But if those responsible for “sufficient cooperation with grace” are those who no longer live, but in whom Christ lives, and those for whom cooperation with grace is itself a gift of grace, then your pessimism is unwarranted. In fact, your pessimism would be nothing but pessimism toward the gifts of the Spirit of God Himself. So, what do the Scriptures say? Why not point to a single place where the Apostles express the very same pessimism as you toward being a new creation by the Spirit in Christ?

    Non sequitr. The Apostles don’t express “the same pessimism toward being a new creation by the Spirit in Christ” that I do because they don’t know of Roman Catholic doctrine in the first century, being that it didn’t exist. You are presupposing RCism, and hasn’t Bryan told us that is not charitable?
    Second, you make claims about what David wants, but again, you provide no scriptural evidence for those claims. As it is, the Psalms don’t support your claims. In Psalm 51:12, David asks God to “uphold me with a willing spirit.” David asks to be “upheld” by being given a “willing spirit” from God. You could replace the word “willing” with “cooperating,” and you have David asking for precisely the thing you claim he doesn’t ask for: “Give me a pure heart that it is then up to me [in possession of the divine gift of a willing spirit] to hold onto via my sufficient cooperation with grace [a cooperation that is itself a gift from God].”

    Is there any textual evidence that you can replace “willing” with “cooperating” in the sense that Rome defines it? Can you cite me any reputable commentary that would look at the Psalm in context and make that argument?
    Regarding the fact that David could “very well lose” the gift of life with God, the psalms show us repeatedly that that can, and did, happen. Psalm 51 itself is a plea for God to grant to David the salvation he lost through sin.

    Psalm 51 is a plea for forgiveness. Where does David say he lost salvation? In fact, where does David ever describe salvation in RC terms?

    In Psalm 30, David writes, “O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit” [Ps.30:3]. The phrase “restored me to life” indicates that David had been in a place of life, but had been brought to a place of death (Sheol). This happened because David had become prideful [v.6], invoking God’s anger [v.5] and the turning away of His face [v.7]. So yes, the life we have with God can be destroyed by sin, taking us to a place of death.

    Actually, in Psalm 30 it is pretty evident that David is speaking of rescue from a physical conflict, as he often does in the Psalter because he was a king and warrior who fought battles. He asks for his foes not to gloat over him (v. 1), which references a battle against earthly enemies. There’s gratitude in this psalm for a rescue from Sheol, that is, the grave, and for rescue from death (v. 9). There’s nothing in here about “the live we have with God” being destroyed by sin.
    Further, David does not indicate that this restoration to life couldn’t be lost again should he choose to sin again. If David does in fact desire a salvation in which no future sin, no matter how bad, could bring him down to Sheol, then you will have to demonstrate that.
    Your entire article is premised on David not asking for imputed righteousness but for inherent righteousness that results in salvation. Let’s assume you are correct. David very clearly is asking in the Psalter ultimately for eternal life, that is, salvation (Ps. 23-I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever). So even if David were asking for inherent righteousness, you still have a situation where Rome can’t give to the individual what he is looking for. At the end of the day, Rome might give you inherent righteousness through baptism, but it is up to your cooperation to hold onto it. And mainstream RC has so elevated free will, that there is no notion of God irresistibly making you hold onto it freely and willingly, as there is in Reformed theology. So my point is simple-Even if your article is substantively correct about what David is searching for, the Roman church simply can’t give it to you. Protestants might have the problem of looking for something David isn’t, but you have the problem of a church that simply can’t give David what he needs. And David isn’t looking merely for the possibility of salvation; he is looking for salvation itself. There are perhaps some things in Augustinian thought or Jansenism, if I’m being generous, that could lend itself to Rome actually giving people more than a possibility of salvation, but we all know that one of those positions is heresy and the other is a distinct minority.
    Finally, if your beef with all this is the doctrine of purgatory (from comments #21 and #22), then I’d invite you to study that doctrine more thoroughly. Purgatory is, in its essence, the loving discipline of our heavenly Father [Hb.12] that we experience after death. More importantly, it’s for those who are assuredly going to heaven. So, your claim that those in purgatory don’t have “the righteousness that matters” (#21) is not Catholic teaching. Purgatory is for the righteous and blameless children of God whose entrance into eternal glory is assured, but who have not reached the maturity necessary to enjoy that glory to its fullness. Therefore, the Catholic Church’s teaching on purgatory simply isn’t contrary to the righteousness I’m speaking of here.

    I understand the doctrine of purgatory and who it is for. But if you have to go through purging and discipline after death, then you do not yet possess the quality of righteousness needed for the beatific vision. So you are actually still lacking what you need, at least until your time in purgatory is over.

    David’s looking for salvation, the beatific vision as a certainty. He’s not looking merely for a possibility. Rome only gives the possibility. So even if you are correct about David’s desire, you still haven’t found the solution to your problem.

  29. Wow, I don’t see it mentioned above, but you got me searching and it turns out that the famous Psalm 51 is actually quoted in Romans 3. This is yuge for the simple fact that this is precisely the “clean heart” Psalm which this post was named after, and here we see Paul quoting it right in the heart of a Justification context.

    Romans 3: 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
    “That you may be justified in your words,
    and prevail when you are judged.”
    5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)

    This is not only fascinating because Paul explicitly ties Psalm 51 to Justification, but even more it says here that God is the one who is “justified,” within a clearly legal framework (since it mentions “righteousness” and “judgment”). This means “justify” cannot refer to imputing Christ’s righteousness, nor can it mean God Himself was declared to have kept the law perfectly (since God the Father never had to do that to be righteousness). Thus, it can only mean “justify” (dikaioo) refers to a Vindication, which is perfectly fine for the Catholic view but terribly problematic for the Protestant view. Indeed, we already know from James 2 that “justify” means “vindicate,” so that is another testimony that Paul also had Vindication in mind as well.

    Here we see the “righteousness of God” defined as “God’s faithfulness,” which further militates against the Protestant notion that “righteousness of God [the Father]” refers to Christ’s Imputed Active Obedience. I honestly don’t see how a Protestant can read this at the start of Romans 3 and then proceed to come up with an entirely different paradigm later in the chapter and into chapter 4.

  30. So you are actually still lacking what you need, at least until your time in purgatory is over.

    It would seem to me that, in this respect, Reformed doctrine is equivalent to RC doctrine, for don’t the Reformed also believe that “only the pure of heart will see God” and that the heart is not made entirely without (venial) sin until after death, correct?

  31. Nick,

    Paul is pointing out that God is still just even though his chosen people have been unfaithful. That’s it.

  32. Jonathan,

    It would seem to me that, in this respect, Reformed doctrine is equivalent to RC doctrine, for don’t the Reformed also believe that “only the pure of heart will see God” and that the heart is not made entirely without (venial) sin until after death, correct?

    In one sense, I suppose there is some superficial similarity except that:

    1. Jesus actually pays for all of the temporal debt of sin in Reformed doctrine.
    2. Everyone who gets the grace of justification will certainly also have a purified heart at the end, so the gift of the purified heart given in regeneration is sufficient. Rome says it isn’t, that we’ve got to keep that purified heart through cooperating with grace, which isn’t guaranteed, at least not in all schools of RC thought.
    3. There’s no purgatorial punishment because Christ has born that in our place.

    But in any case, the key point would be that Reformed doctrine actually gives the enduringly pure heart and beatific vision that David is looking for, Roman Catholic doctrine doesn’t, at least not until after purgatory.

  33. Hi Robert (#28)

    Non sequitr. The Apostles don’t express “the same pessimism toward being a new creation by the Spirit in Christ” that I do because they don’t know of Roman Catholic doctrine in the first century, being that it didn’t exist. You are presupposing RCism, and hasn’t Bryan told us that is not charitable?

    You’ve given me no reason to think that there’s a non sequitur in that quote of mine, or that I’m “presupposing RCism.” Simply typing the words doesn’t make it so.

    Further, if you acknowledge that your pessimism toward being a new spiritual creation in Christ is not shared by the Apostles, then why do you hold to it? As a Catholic, I believe that because it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and because I’ve been brought from death to life, and because every good work has been prepared beforehand for me to do, I therefore have every confidence that the Spirit has equipped me to cooperate with the grace He pours into my heart. That optimism is in line with what is revealed in Scripture, whereas, by your own admission, your pessimism is not.

    Is there any textual evidence that you can replace “willing” with “cooperating” in the sense that Rome defines it? Can you cite me any reputable commentary that would look at the Psalm in context and make that argument?

    It seems clear to me that in asking for a “willing spirit,” David means a heart that is obedient to God. In New Testament parlance, we could say that David is asking to be equipped to “walk in step with the Spirit,” which is nothing other than what the Catholic Church means by cooperating with grace. If this line of reasoning is so ridiculous that no “reputable commentary” would support it, then it should be easy for you to show me where I’m going wrong.

    Psalm 51 is a plea for forgiveness. Where does David say he lost salvation? In fact, where does David ever describe salvation in RC terms?

    I’ll grant you that it isn’t clear from Psalm 51 that David is speaking about having lost salvation. I would point to “restore to me the joy of your salvation,” but I recognize it could be interpreted strictly as the “joy” being restored, and not the salvation itself, although both are grammatically possible.

    As to where David “describes salvation in RC terms,” see the above post.

    Actually, in Psalm 30 it is pretty evident that David is speaking of rescue from a physical conflict, as he often does in the Psalter because he was a king and warrior who fought battles. He asks for his foes not to gloat over him (v. 1), which references a battle against earthly enemies. There’s gratitude in this psalm for a rescue from Sheol, that is, the grave, and for rescue from death (v. 9). There’s nothing in here about “the live we have with God” being destroyed by sin.

    In my previous comment to you, I provided the verses that demonstrate that David is speaking of his spiritual life, none of which you have engaged with. Further, if he were referring strictly to a physical battle, and to Sheol strictly as the grave, then v.3, “O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored my life from among those who go down to the pit,” would mean that David had been killed in battle and resurrected. But obviously that didn’t happen – he’s speaking metaphorically. And to establish just what that metaphor is, in v.5, David parallels this restoration with the Lord turning from anger to favor. And again, in v.6, David writes of having spoken pridefully, something that results in God hiding His face in v.7. Finally, in v.11, David writes of God having “loosed my sackcloth,” sackcloth being a sign of repentance. David is using a physical conflict to illustrate a spiritual reality, a reality that includes the fact that sin separates us from God.

    So even if David were asking for inherent righteousness, you still have a situation where Rome can’t give to the individual what he is looking for. At the end of the day, Rome might give you inherent righteousness through baptism, but it is up to your cooperation to hold onto it.

    Except you haven’t established that David is looking for a salvation that he cannot choose to reject. Your quote from Psalm 23 doesn’t establish that. As a Catholic, I can happily say the words of Psalm 23 – of course I expect that I will dwell in the house of God forever. But I also believe that if between now and then I choose to turn aside from the narrow and difficult path onto the broad and easy path, that I can no longer expect to dwell in God’s house at all. Nothing in Psalm 23, or anything else in the Psalms that I’m aware of, indicates to me that David believed anything different from what I believe. You need to demonstrate that when David said, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” that he also believed that he could never choose not to dwell there.

    I understand the doctrine of purgatory and who it is for. But if you have to go through purging and discipline after death, then you do not yet possess the quality of righteousness needed for the beatific vision. So you are actually still lacking what you need, at least until your time in purgatory is over.

    This post isn’t about what is required for the Beatific Vision in particular, but about what is required to be saved at all. It’s about what we, in this life, mean when we speak of possessing salvation. We don’t speak of possessing the Beatific Vision, since we don’t have that in this life. But we do speak of being righteous before God, since Scripture speaks of that as the present reality of the gospel. This post is about whether David speaks of that present reality in terms of imputation or in terms of transformation. If it pleases God to further sanctify someone before receiving him into glory, that’s a secondary question to whether that person possesses salvation as I mean it here. As I said previously, purgatory is for those who possess salvation as I mean it here.

    – Jeremy

  34. I recall a discussion, some 33 years ago in a group that included the man who later became my Reformed pastor – discussing the ‘P’ of TULIP – ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ – sometimes referred to as once-saved-always-saved. I realised, I said, that there was no phaenomenoligical difference between us Reformed and the Catholics on this point. The Catholics thought, I said, that you could reject your salvation, by committing serious sin and turning deliberately from God. The Reformed said you could not – but, if presented with a person who had seemed to believe, changed his life, lived a good life, but, later, turned away, said he didn’t believe, it was all a lot of nonsense, and lived happily as a heathen – such a person, the Reformed would say, had never really believed in the first place.

    That seems to me, now a Catholic of some 23 years, to be true – except that the Reformed explanation is a kind of a No True Scotsman fallacy.

    Don’t know if this is relevant to this discussion, and Jeremy may choose not to ok it – no problem, but it sounded to me like what Jeremy is referring to with Except you haven’t established that David is looking for a salvation that he cannot choose to reject..

    Robert – would you agree that – again, speaking only phaenomenologically – speaking about what appears – what we can see, hear, etc – the two positions are the same?

    jj

  35. Thanks, Robert (#32)

    I agree with the distinctions you’ve noted regarding what Roman Catholics and Reformed believe about how sin is purged after death. I will add that regarding the pure of heart seeing God, R.C. Sproul (may he rest in peace) wrote on Ligonier Ministries about multiple purgatorial possibilities which are compatible with Reformed doctrine.

    “Rome says it isn’t, that we’ve got to keep that purified heart through cooperating with grace, which isn’t guaranteed”

    If the extent of “guarantee” is one of your principal objections to the Catholic paradigm, then I suggest reading the article by Neil Judisch on this site: Persevering Most Assuredly: One Reason to Prefer Luther over Calvin.

    “Jesus actually pays for all of the temporal debt of sin in Reformed doctrine… There’s no purgatorial punishment because Christ has born that in our place.”

    Yes, but even in Reformed doctrine, God allows for temporal punishment for sin – which we see clearly in the natural consequences of sin in this life. So even if one believed he could sin boldly and get off “scot-free” by being lucky enough to die before the natural consequences come about, still it would be prudent to pray as David did for a clean heart which willingly obeys God’s law. Because it’s very possible that a person will experience many of the nasty personal consequences of actual sin before he takes his last earthly breath. The “That man is you!” indictment of David by Nathan is a chilling reminder of these consequences.

    I propose that Roman Catholics and Reformed can agree that sin has devastating temporal consequences, and as such every Christian should pray and endeavor to be entirely free of the slavery of sin despite our eternal hope and trust in God’s providence.

  36. Jesus died to save sinners who can’t save themselves. That is how God designed the narrative, so He gets all the glory. Mental ascent to God’s finished and ongoing work is necessary, as witnessed by David’s cries in the Psalms. The renewal of heart and spirit comes from God by agreeing with God, it doesn’t come from being righteous. We are imputed with right standing before God when we agree with Him, and we are infused with change over time by the Holy Spirit. That’s all there is to it.

  37. Jeremy, I used to be a part of the denomination that you were once studying in to become a pastor. If your experience was anything like mine, then it might be because of your time there in that denomination that you are presenting an unbalanced view of the Reformed position on the gospel. Also, it’s not really fair that you would present the “Reformed tradition” by quoting two men from the modern era. I see nothing to disagree with in the Sproul quote, but I’m also reading it and am sure that he didn’t intend for a short 3 paragraph blog piece to be used as a complete presentation of his soteriology. Besides, on the doctrine of salvation the Reformed position is hardly monolithic. One only needs to look up the recent controversy that John Piper raised regarding Final Salvation and the role that works have in it.

    Though I am not a strict confessionalist in the way that the Reformed are (I generally don’t call myself Reformed anymore, though I am certainly monergistic) I think its better to refer to one of the confessions to represent the Reformed view. Because of my proclivities I will appeal to the 1689 London Baptist Confession, which is basically identical to the Westminster Confession on this topic. It states in chapter 10, “Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.”

    This is immediately followed with justification which is addressed in the following chapter. And though sanctification is distinct from justification, they should not be separated. It’s true that many Reformed try to present sanctification as an almost optional process, but this is an error and is certainly not Biblical nor is it confessional. Sanctification is such a necessary outworking of the new heart of flesh that chapter 13 states, “They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

    That hardly sounds anything like what you gave as the “Reformed tradition.” When you give a summary of the Reformed view as, “The heart of the good news is not about a transformation that happens inside me; the heart of the good news is about a transfer that happens outside me,” I believe that you are presenting an unbalanced modern Reformed view – the view that I was formerly taught and probably the view that you were trained in.

  38. Hi Joel,

    My article dealt with the question of how we are righteous before God. I asked about David, “Did he seek a righteousness in the form of the imputed obedience of another. . . [or] did he seek a righteousness in the form of the steadfast love by which God restores the hearts of sinners to Himself?”

    You believe that my answer had something to do with my former denomination, and you claimed that it was “not really fair” that I quoted “two men from the modern era.” So, just to show that my answer has nothing to do with my particular former denomination, and that it’s by no means confined to modern thinking, allow me to quote the 1689 London Baptist Confession on the above question:

    God freely justifies the persons whom He effectually calls. He does this, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins and by accounting them, and accepting them, as righteous. This He does for Christ’s sake alone, and not for anything wrought in them or done by them. The righteousness which is imputed to them, that is, reckoned to their account, is neither their faith nor the act of believing nor any other obedience to the gospel which they have rendered, but Christ’s obedience alone (Justification, 1).

    Those are not my words, nor the words of a particular Reformed denomination, nor the words of a modern Reformed teacher. And the answer they give is that we are made right with God based on “Christ’s obedience alone.” Without Christ’s obedience imputed to us, the confession says, we remain unrighteous. That means we remain in a state of enmity with God – we remain unsaved. The opening question of my article was, “What does it mean to be saved?” The words of your own preferred confession support my claim that for Reformed people, “The heart of the good news is not about a transformation that happens inside me; the heart of the good news is about a transfer that happens outside me.” As important as you no doubt believe sanctification is (and it was also important to my former denomination), sanctification, in Reformed thinking, is simply not how we are made right with God.

    But as I argued in my post, the solution presented by the Reformed confessions, including the 1689 London Baptist Confession, is not the solution David looked for in the Psalms. David did not look to the obedience of another as the solution to being right with God. Rather, he looked for the transformation “wrought in” him, the one rejected by your confession as no real solution to unrighteousness and enmity with God. In fact, if your confession is correct, and we are made right with God on account of “Christ’s obedience alone,” then even if David got the internally-instructed, Spirit-guided clean heart he asked for, he’d be no less accursed before God than he was before. The *only* thing that could make David right with God would be the imputation of Christ’s obedience.

    So, either David (and the Holy Spirit through him) didn’t know how to be right with God, pining away after a false gospel; or he did know, and the Reformed claims about being right with God are false – and the Catholic claims are vindicated by Scripture against the accusations of the Reformers.

    Jeremy

  39. Reformed conception of salvation is broader than justification. Both imputed and infused righteousness fits into the soteriological framework of the reformed perspective. We are imputed righteousness because of our union with Christ so that he, being our substitute and our second Adam, won for us the righteousness we could not have attained because of our union with Adam. We are infused with righteousness as God regenerates and sanctifies us having already justified us. That means, God will transform our lives progressively to be more and more like his Son as evidence for the declaration he proclaimed, in Christ, in our justification. The link between justification to sanctification will not be broken. God will see to it that all those who are justified will be sanctified. We do make a distinction that what made us accepted and pardoned for our sin is not anything wrought by us (that is, not based on our inherent righteousness) but only because of what has Christ has done for us. Our sanctified lives is the evidence of our justification not the grounds of it. From my perspective then, the reformed framework takes into account both imputed and infused righteousness very well.

    Roman Catholicism (RC) is not broad enough to fit this two concepts in her soteriology based on Trent’s canons. For RC, the imputed righteousness of Christ is out of the picture in favour of infused righteousness. In RCsm, infused righteousness is the inherent righteousness of the believer which is composed of the pardon of sin during baptism and the merits attained in doing good works as the result of cooperation with the grace of God. According to RCsm, the basis of our acceptance with God is our inherent righteousness. With that framework, it is logical for Trent to say that justification could be gained and lost depending on the free cooperation of the believer. We can be justified during baptism and be re justified further gaining more righteousness by doing more good works. The amount of righteousness gained by our effort to cooperating with God’s grace will not assure us of heaven right away because this righteousness will not remove temporal punishment of sin resulting from venial sins. This will have to be paid for in the suffering of purgatory. As people could not merit righteousness in purgatory, those who are alive can intervene through the sacraments to lessen the length of suffering of those who are in purgatory. However, those who commit mortal sin in this life even without losing faith can lose their justification gained during baptism. They could not merit the increase of justification also in state of mortal sin. Only entering and doing the sacrament of penance can restore the justification that they have lost and start meriting further justification to enter in to heaven. So this inherent righteousness which grounds justification in RCsm is dependent upon the cooperation of man. It is gained and lost in system of obedience, sacramentalism and good works.

    Which one is biblical is up to the readers For me, the reformed framework is more biblical. But that is just me. I can fully understand why the article will have to paint the reformed framework as if salvation is all about justification which seemed like has no link to the transformation of the believer to holiness. But maybe this is why open discussion has to occur to balance each other’s view.

  40. Joey Henry (),

    It seems you are claiming what Trent says about Justification is not biblical, however Trent cites scripture and the Fathers extensively in the chapter on Justification. Perhaps you can clarify which part of Trent you disagree with.

    To me, this is the most relevant passage, from Trent Chapter 6:

    The causes of this justification are:
    the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and life everlasting; the efficient cause is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies[31] gratuitously, signing and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,[32] the meritorious cause is His most beloved only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies,[33] for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,[34] merited for us justification by His most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father, the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith,[35] without which no man was ever justified finally, the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind,[36] and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills,[37] and according to each one’s disposition and cooperation.

    For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the hearts[38] of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity.

    For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body.[39]

    For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead[40] and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity.[41]

  41. Hi Joey (#39),

    You wrote,

    I can fully understand why the article will have to paint the reformed framework as if salvation is all about justification which seemed like has no link to the transformation of the believer to holiness.

    I haven’t misrepresented the Reformed view in my article. In fact, it is you who have misrepresented mine. I didn’t claim that in Reformed thinking, “salvation is all about justification.” What I claimed is that in Reformed thinking, being righteous before God is all about Christ obeying God in my place. Just as I said to the previous commenter, however important you think sanctification is, in Reformed thinking sanctification is not what makes us righteous before God. Therefore, when you say,

    Both imputed and infused righteousness fits into the soteriological framework of the reformed perspective,

    you aren’t speaking to what I’ve argued in my post. Both “imputed and infused righteousness” are not what make us right before God in Reformed thinking – only imputed righteousness is.

    Further, when it comes to describing the Catholic understanding of righteousness, you wrote,

    In RCsm, infused righteousness is the inherent righteousness of the believer which is composed of the pardon of sin during baptism and the merits attained in doing good works as the result of cooperation with the grace of God.

    In Catholic thinking, righteousness is not “composed of the pardon of sin during baptism and the merits attained in doing good works” etc. Righteousness is “composed of” Christ’s own divine life and love. In Catholic thinking, being infused with righteousness is exactly the same thing as saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Therefore, when you say,

    According to RCsm, the basis of our acceptance with God is our inherent righteousness,

    if you mean, “the basis of our acceptance with God is that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us,” then yes, you have accurately summarized Catholic teaching. If you mean something like “a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,” then no, you haven’t accurately summarized Catholic teaching. No explanation of righteousness in Catholic thinking is complete without being centred on our spiritual recreation after the life of Christ.

    So again, the question at stake here is whether David looks to “Christ who obeyed God in my place” for his salvation, or to “Christ who lives in me” for his salvation – salvation being defined as being righteous before God. As for the rest of your comment, regarding the sacraments, purgatory, and good works, while those issues are related to this discussion, they aren’t relevant to the specific question at hand.

    – Jeremy

  42. Hi Jeremy,

    We can accuse each other of misrepresentation. But I don’t think that would help. Being righteous before God is NOT all about Christ obeying in my place. The ground of being declared righteous is Christ’s righteousness imputed. But the effect and result of that justification is the sanctification of the believer. We can not separate the two as if the other exists without the latter. Thus, Calvin, having anticipated this miscarricature wrote:

    ‘In short, I affirm, that not by our own merit but by faith alone, are both our persons and works justified; and that the justification of works [sanctification]depends on the justification [forensic] of the person , as the effect on the cause.’ (John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote)

    He also clarified further after discussing our union with Christ and its effects:

    ‘Although we may distinguish them [i.e. justification and sanctification], Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself. Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces (1 Cor. 1:13). Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other. Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness.’ (Institutes, 3.16.1)

    I can provide more explanation on this matter but these two clarification from Calvin should be enough. We can not talk about being right with God by not alluding to sanctification as the result of justification.

    Now, with regard to your accusation that I misrepresented you, I am willing to be corrected. Having read (again) Trent’s canon prior to responding, here are the relevant passages I am alluding regarding Infused Rigtheousness:

    ‘For, although no one can be just, but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity.’ (Trent, Chapter VI)

    Here, it is said, after discussing the formal cause of justification that what is received in justification are: 1) the remission of sins and 2) faith, hope and charity. That infusion of faith, hope and charity will then further described in prior and preceding chapters as the result of our “cooperation” with the grace of God. This is done through keeping the commandments, attending to the sacraments, and doing good works.

    The council of Trent was never ashamed of saying that “keeping the commandments” and/or “good works” would incur justification. Is this language akin to Paul’s “righteousness of my own from the law”? I’ll let the readers decide. Trent declared:

    “For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God,-we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace: seeing that Christ, our Saviour, saith: If any one shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst for ever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting.” (Trent, Chapter XVI)

    Here Trent said that doing good works can satisfy the divine law. Not that good works have merit on its own but simply because it is valued with the virtue of Christ if done in the state of grace. This, according to Trent, forms part of the ground of why God will treat us righteous. In other words, the righteousness that we received in justification results from our effort to “cooperate” with the grace of God. That is why Trent will have a concept of being accepted by God in varying degrees as justification can increase or it can be lost or regained.

    Whilst, you want to dismiss sacramentalism, purgatory and good works as not relevant to the question, Trent viewed them as central in the concept of justification. These are an integral part of the whole system on how a person gets accepted by God and go to heaven per Trent’s worldview.

    — Joey Henry

  43. Hi Joey,

    You wrote,

    Being righteous before God is NOT all about Christ obeying in my place.

    The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that God “accepts us as righteous in his sight only for the righteousness imputed to us.” The word “only” excludes all other grounds for being accepted as righteous by God. Your quotes from Calvin demonstrate that he believed that justification and sanctification accompany each other 100% of the time, flip sides of the same coin. But those quotes do not prove that Calvin believed that we are accepted as righteous before God because of our sanctification. Rather, he believed, sanctification follows from being accepted as righteous before God. In fact, you contradict your claim when you say:

    The ground of being declared righteous is Christ’s righteousness imputed.

    This is what my argument is about. In Reformed thinking, you are declared righteous by God because of Christ’s imputed righteousness, and not for any other reason. You, and the other Reformed respondents here, have brought up sanctification as though you are balancing out the picture I’m presenting. But in Reformed thinking, sanctification is not the reason we are declared righteous by God. When it comes to that, the whole picture is imputation. Bringing sanctification in as a ground for being declared righteous is, in Reformed thinking, not a balance at all, but a denial of the gospel.

    I’m not sure why you’ve quoted the Council of Trent as an objection to my argument. As I stated in my article, in the comments, and in my previous comment to you, in Catholic teaching, righteousness *is* the life of Christ. That’s what Trent teaches:

    For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God. . .

    For Catholics, being accounted righteous by God is equivalent to saying, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” That indwelling of God is not given to us because God was first pleased with our holiness, any more than Christ healed the sick because He was first pleased with their holiness. The divine life of Christ in our hearts is given to us not on account of anything in us, but on account of His own goodness. Yes, that life produces good works in us. Yes, that life deepens and richens as we walk in step with the Spirit (that cooperation being itself a gift of God’s grace). And yes, works done in the grace of this new created life have indeed “fully satisfied the divine law.” But that life of good works, cooperation, and holiness is enabled by the Christ who dwells in our hearts. He is love, His love is the fulfillment of the law, and His love is our life. Without that life, we are nothing before God. With that life, we are His beloved children and we are accepted as righteous in His sight.

    That is the teaching of Trent, and that is what I’ve argued David looks for as his salvation.

    – Jeremy

  44. Hi Jeremy, thanks for taking the time to respond to the comments.

    With all the comments you’ve already received and responded to, I may be at risk of beating a dead horse here but I just wanted to clarify what I feel the problem is with this article. In the introduction you explained that the purpose of the article was to “first briefly summarize the Reformed and Catholic answers to what it means to be saved” and then “compare the two answers by looking at how salvation is described in the Psalms.” You then gave an RC Sproul quote describing the doctrine of imputation and stated,

    “That is what, according to Reformed teaching, it means to be saved.” That’s where, I believe, the problem begins. That statement isn’t true. It was more accurate for you to state a few sentences later,

    “That is what justification is in Reformed thinking,” but justification and salvation are not the same thing. So if your purpose is to “compare…by looking at how salvation is described in the Psalms,” then it would be better to find a Reformed statement that accurately describes salvation, and not just the one aspect of it. You gave an incorrect definition of “what it means to be saved.” and passed it off as the “Reformed tradition.” To bring Michael Horton back into the discussion, he states in his book Introducing Covenant Theology,

    “Too often we use justification and salvation interchangeably, so the suggestion that we are justified without any condition other than faith leads some to conclude that it is the only condition of salvation. However, salvation is understood broadly in Scripture to encompass the whole work of God in restoring His fallen creation.” He also states on the same page,

    “The New Testament lays before us a vast array of conditions for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbour, are part of that holiness without which no one shall see the Lord (Heb 12:14). Such holiness is not simply definitive – that is, it belongs not only to our justification, which is an imputed rather than an imparted righteousness, but to our sanctification, that inner renewal by the Spirit.”

    It’s not correct that you dismiss sanctification as being something besides a part of salvation, but I see another commenter has already stated that today. In my understanding I believe a proper Reformed view fits very nicely with David’s statements in the Psalms. But if you meant for the article to show how – not salvation – but “[justification] is described in the Psalms,” then I would simply say that I need some more proof that David in these passages views himself as unjustified and is seeking to be justified.

    I apologize if you’ve already addressed this 10 times already. To be honest, I don’t have enough first hand knowledge of the Roman Catholic Church but that’s something I’ve been trying to change a little bit at a time. Thanks.

  45. Hi Jeremy,

    I did not contradict myself. I only clarified what is the relationship between justification and sanctification. Indeed, when we are discussing about the ‘ground’ of justification, only Christ’s Righteousness will justify us. Having said that, salvation does not stop at justification. And, being right with God is not all about the imputation of Christ’s Righteousness. That is why the Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) lists three acts of God as the result of God’s intention to save in Q33 to Q35:

    ‘Q. 33. What is justification?
    A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
    Q. 34. What is adoption?
    A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace,a whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.
    Q. 35. What is sanctification?
    A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness’ (WSC, Q33 to Q35).

    Both imputed and infused righteousness are taken into account in the Reformed soteriological framework. And, if the Roman Catholic’s (RC) Gospel is that man’s soul is renovated and transformed, more so in the Reformed framework. The difference between RCsm and Reformed is how this transformed life function in the economy of salvation. Our framework says, sanctification is the evidence of justification. Trent’s framework says that sanctification is the ground of justification. Still, we must be careful here as protestant and RC’s overall conception of ‘sanctification’ differs but both affirm that it involves the transformation of the soul unto holiness.

    I use Trent’s language as it is more precise and clear on what the official teaching of the RC is. For example, when you say that ‘righteousness *is* the life of Christ’ — what does that exactly mean per Trent? I would go to Trent’s declaration as the framework on which I could understand your language. You said:

    That indwelling of God is not given to us because God was first pleased with our holiness, any more than Christ healed the sick because He was first pleased with their holiness. The divine life of Christ in our hearts is given to us not on account of anything in us, but on account of His own goodness.

    The term ‘indwelling of God’ or ‘divine life of Christ’ is not found in Trent’s language. So forgive me if I am not sure how to define those terms in your worldview. It seemed to me that ‘indwelling of God’ and ‘divine life of Christ’ is equal to ‘justification’ or ‘righteousness’ However, what Trent affirmed is that the ‘grace of justification’ is not merited. Justification can be merited but not the ‘grace of justification’ (Trent, Chapter VII). In Trent’s language, God is pleased to give us righteousness because we cooperated freely of his grace. ‘Cooperation’ in Trent’s language are the baptised effort to keep the commandments, do good works and attend to the sacraments. Trent grounds God’s treatment of us as righteous based on our ‘free cooperation’ which ‘cooperation’ results in righteousness and the increase of righteousness. The more we ‘cooperate’ the greater is our righteousness the more we are justified. Further, Trent treats eternal life as ‘reward’ of justification.

    But you said ‘that life of good works, cooperation, and holiness is enabled by the Christ who dwells in our hearts.’ What does that really mean according to Trent’s framework? It does not mean that Christ will see to it that we will do good works, cooperate and live holy lives. What Trent meant was that all of us are given a chance to ‘cooperate’. And if we do, we can’t claim it for ourselves because we did not deserve that chance in the first place.

    We are God’s beloved children and we possess ‘inherent righteousness’ for as long as we ‘freely cooperate’. The moment we don’t, all is gone should we commit mortal sin and will have lengthy sufferings in purgatory for venial sins. In short, it seemed to me that to be justified in RCsm is grounded upon my ‘own righteousness’ (how much I freely cooperate with God’s grace).

    As far as what David believes, I must say, it is anachronistic for David to believe Trent’s teaching. He does not even know what is baptism, purgatory and the other sacraments that would gain him ‘justification’. He didn’t even know what Christ has done at this point in time. He can look toward the sacrifices to atone for his sin and the centrality of the Temple and the High Priest for atonement. But I highly doubt, David knew the teaching s of Trent and looked at Trent’s system for his salvation.

    Sincerely,
    Joey Henry

  46. God is the initiator, worker, and finisher of all things regarding who will or won’t obtain salvation…He decides via His own counsel. Any other human centered notion of salvation will result in a god who can be manipulated (i.e. an idol).

    We respond to what God is doing, that is all. We get the joy of heart and subsequent behavior when we see God for who He is.

    RC theological error is completely addressed in the letter to the Galatians. There is everything right with good behavior and the evidence of it, but it has no merit in God’s court.

    It is hard to be human and to let God be God. The trap, or easy way out, is to build box and then stuff God into it. Good luck with that one :-)

  47. Mike, Joey Henry, and Joel,

    From following the conversation here, it sounds like you all at least partially agree with the proposal of this article, that in the Psalms, David expresses a desire for infused righteousness. It seems you disagree when it comes to whether Reformed theology can satisfy David’s desire. But if I am reading your responses right, it seems like your bigger issue here is something that’s not really the subject of this article: man’s free cooperation with God’s grace in Catholic theology.

    Joey Henry, you said this:

    It does not mean that Christ will see to it that we will do good works, cooperate and live holy lives. What Trent meant was that all of us are given a chance to ‘cooperate’… in short, it seemed to me that to be justified in RCsm is grounded upon my ‘own righteousness’ (how much I freely cooperate with God’s grace).

    Mike, it sounds like you are saying that the notion that man freely cooperates with God’s grace makes God an idol, someone who can be manipulated.

    Man’s cooperation with grace and the freedom of his will to cooperate (or not) is not the focus of this article. But there are two other CtC articles which are good discussion threads for this topic.

    /2009/08/is-the-catholic-church-semi-pelagian/
    /2011/04/thought-experiment-for-monergists/

    In addition to these articles, I would like to refer you to some relevant questions answered in the section in the Summa Theologica. The Summa is really a great key to understand the terms and canons of Trent.

    Does man have free will?
    Whether God can move the created will
    Can violence be done to the will?

    According to St. Thomas (who quotes from St. Augustine in many of his explanations), the relationship between free will and grace is not one of compulsion or violence. When God moves man’s will, God places the desire in man’s heart so that the will can freely choose it. Man can also freely resist this desire (by choosing some other desire). But God knows which inspirations man will resist and which he will cooperate with, so no matter what choice man makes, it is in accordance with God’s will.

    So in Catholic theology, to be clear, God is the power behind man’s free cooperation and good works. Also, whereas in Catholic theology, God is liberal with his graces (sometimes purposely sowing into bad soil), we, like the Reformed, maintain that God is sovereign over His creation, including those creatures to whom He has granted rational thought.

    I hope this helps!

  48. David never asks for “infused righteousness”, the idea would be completely foreign to him, what with all the priesthood, animal sacrificial atonement, rituals, etc.

    In Psalm 51 David stipulates the discord in his personal relationship with God. And he stipulates the problem cannot be fixed by him observing rules and rituals. David, acknowledges only God can rectify the separation. David is quite clear in understanding he will never have merit in the court of God’s kingdom, thus he asks for mercy, not for “infused righteousness”.

  49. Hi Joey (#45),

    I think that in order for this conversation to be fruitful, we should find some common ground. We seem to be speaking past each other. So, would you agree that the following is an accurate (albeit brief) summary of what you believe salvation is?

    “God accepts us as righteous on account of the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Because of this, we have reconciliation with Him. As an effect of this gift of reconciliation, God blesses us with the gift of infused righteousness, that is, the gift of His life in our hearts. This gift is not the reason why God accepts us as righteous, for that acceptance is based on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness alone, but it always and necessarily accompanies that acceptance.”

    If you don’t agree that that’s accurate, then please adjust it accordingly.

    Regarding my language and that of Trent, you wrote,

    The term ‘indwelling of God’ or ‘divine life of Christ’ is not found in Trent’s language. So forgive me if I am not sure how to define those terms in your worldview. It seemed to me that ‘indwelling of God’ and ‘divine life of Christ’ is equal to ‘justification’ or ‘righteousness.’

    The Council of Trent uses biblical images like the new birth, the head and body, and the vine and the branches as pictures of what it means to be justified. All of those images are about life. That life is a spiritual life – the life of Christ.

    Regarding David, you wrote,

    But I highly doubt, David knew the teaching s of Trent and looked at Trent’s system for his salvation.

    Considering that David lived 2500 years prior to Trent, I’d call that a certainty. I didn’t mean that David held to Tridentine theology, any more than I would say that David did not hold to Reformed theology. Those are obviously much later developments. But both theologies are rooted in ideas that they claim are revealed in Scripture. And one of the points on which they depart from each other is on how God restores sinners to Himself. Therefore, without having to read all of later Tridentine and Reformed theology back into David’s words, we can still certainly ask what it meant for David to be reconciled with God, and ask whether his words support the Catholic claims or the Reformed claims on that particular question.

    Jeremy

  50. Hi Joel (#44),

    You wrote,

    You then gave an RC Sproul quote describing the doctrine of imputation and stated,

    “That is what, according to Reformed teaching, it means to be saved.” That’s where, I believe, the problem begins. That statement isn’t true. It was more accurate for you to state a few sentences later,

    “That is what justification is in Reformed thinking,” but justification and salvation are not the same thing.

    Justification and salvation are used interchangeably all the time in Reformed teaching. I used a quote from R.C. Sproul, an eminent and widely-respected Reformed theologian, in which he described what he called “the gospel.” The word gospel means “good news,” because it’s the good news of our salvation. It is entirely correct, therefore, when somebody says, “This is the gospel,” to conclude, “This is what, according to that person, it means to be saved.” For Sproul, to be saved meant having the righteousness of Christ imputed to you.

    Further, your quotes from Michael Horton don’t demonstrate that Horton thinks “salvation” and “justification” can’t be used interchangeably. He uses them interchangeably himself, as in the article from which I quoted in my post:

    Without the imputation of righteousness the Gospel isn’t Good News because we could never know if we are standing before God in a Justified therefore a saved state. [sic]

    For Horton, “justified” and “saved state” are interchangeable. In the quotes you provided, he’s arguing that “salvation” can also mean more than simply “justification.” I haven’t claimed that the Reformed believe otherwise. What I do claim is that salvation in the sense meant by R.C. Sproul and Horton in the above quote, that is, as being accepted as righteous before God, does not include sanctification. That’s basic Reformed teaching.

    But I have no desire to spend any more time on this. If the word “salvation” is bothering you, then I’ll drop it. The substance of my argument remains, regardless of the terminology. Instead of asking, “What does it mean to be saved,” I can ask, “What does it mean to be accepted as righteous by God?” The Reformed answer is that it means Christ has obeyed God in my place, and that God reckons me righteous on that account alone.

    I need some more proof that David in these passages views himself as unjustified and is seeking to be justified.

    Let’s say there is no conclusive proof that David viewed himself as what we would call “unjustified.” What difference would that make? In Reformed thinking, even justified believers view themselves as righteous before God only because of Christ’s imputed obedience. Reformed pastors regularly explain justification to their congregations, and not just for the benefit of the unjustified, but for the benefit of believers, too. In Reformed teaching, if a believer thinks that his sanctification is his righteousness before God, then he’s believing a false gospel and needs to be corrected. For the Reformed, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the central fact of a believer’s walk with God, no matter how mature they are in the faith.

    My argument is that we find no such idea in David’s thinking. He never conceives of his walk with God in terms of someone obeying God in his place. When confronted by his own sin and disobedience, David doesn’t look to the obedience of another for his hope. He looks to God’s work in his own heart as his hope. While I recognize that this sanctification is also a central part of Reformed teaching, a gospel in which that sanctification is our righteousness before God is not a central part of Reformed teaching, but is a false and damning gospel. And that’s the idea I’m pushing on. I’m saying that for David, righteousness before God and sanctification are one and the same thing.

    The troubling thing for Reformed teaching, my argument goes, is not that David looks for sanctification from God. It’s that David does not look for imputation. His relationship with God simply does not involve that idea. That’s in line with Catholic teaching. But it’s not in line with Reformed teaching, which holds that there is no reconciliation with God at all apart from imputation.

    Jeremy

  51. Hi Mike (#48),

    You wrote,

    David is quite clear in understanding he will never have merit in the court of God’s kingdom, thus he asks for mercy, not for “infused righteousness”.

    David asks, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” [Ps.51:10]. This inner creation and renewal is what is meant by “infused righteousness.”

  52. I recall, in 1984 – some ten years before I realised I must become a Catholic – thinking all this through: are we saved by faith alone or faith plus works – and realising that there is no phaenomenoligical difference between the Catholic and the Reformed. The Catholic says we are saved by the infused grace of God in us working through love; the Reformed says that is only the effect of God’s saving us – but, n.b., it is the necessary effect. The man who comes to me telling me he has faith but continues to live completely as a pagan – I am invited, by my Reformed pastor, to say that that man does not have real faith. He only has, it may be, intellectual faith – or, indeed, he may be an impostor.

    I decided that I could not sort out, of the two approaches, any actual difference for me. The Reformed statement did, indeed, seem to me like the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy. In any case, I was going to stop worrying about it – that was when I was still Reformed. “Oh God, create in me a clean heart!” was what I prayed.

    A bit of an existential approach, I suppose. We used to ask, about someone we knew to be baptised and a regular church goer, whether he was a Christian. I think we knew what we meant – and it seemed very close to what the Catholic Church teaches.

    I must say that the idea that I am being saved by my own works, to me, now a Catholic for over 22 years, seems absurd. I am more deeply aware every day that I am cast wholly on the mercy and goodness and grace of God through my Lord Jesus Christ.

    Holy David, pray for us!

    jj

  53. Jeremy wrote:

    David asks, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” [Ps.51:10]. This inner creation and renewal is what is meant by “infused righteousness.”

    If you are saying the Roman Catholic theology of “infused righteousness” is required to cause God to change His statutory view toward David, you have too low a view of God’s character.

    The Psalm is clear, David knows who’s kingdom David belongs to, despite David’s sins. And David knows an appeal to anything other than mercy is an insult. So he starts by petitioning for mercy:

    [Psalm 51:1] Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
    according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.

    David also knows to get the intimacy and right behavior he longs for requires God to change his heart and renew his spirit.

    Thankfully, God doesn’t change. So we can know and put our faith in His assurance of our salvation. And He can cause the change we need to be closer to Him, always our Father and friend.

    Don’t let others tell you who you are, or whether you are “in or out”, despite your short comings, O child of Jacob.

    [Malachi 3:6] For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

  54. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. – Galatians 3:24

    When not seen as a tutor, the law becomes as depicted in Les Miserable when Javert says:

    “Mine is the way of the Lord
    And those who follow the path of the righteous
    Shall have their reward
    And if they fall
    As Lucifer fell
    The flame
    The sword . . .

    And so it has been and so it is written
    On the doorway to paradise
    That those who falter and those who fall
    Must pay the price!”

    King David, I believe, sees as does the bard of England..

    “Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
    That in the course of justice none of us
    Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
    And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
    The deeds of mercy.”

    William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), “The Merchant of Venice”, Act 4 scene 1

    You know the matter of “infusion or imputation” and their “application” theological is important and distinctive, else no need for this blog.

    Put no trust anywhere but Jesus for our lives, and the work of the Holy Spirit for our hearts… and the deeds of man will be evidenced as merciful AND righteous.

    “There is nothing on Earth that we share! It is either Valjean or Javert! And does he know… that, granting me my life today, this man has killed me, even so?”

  55. You can be a Christian in the Roman Catholic church, and you can be a Roman Catholic in a Christian Church, but simply being a Roman Catholic, or a Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, etc., does not make you a Christian, no matter how well you keep the rules and rituals. This situation doesn’t give you license, but it does give you freedom to worship in spirit and truth.

    Similarly, being a Jew does not necessarily make you a child of Abraham, as Paul points out. “So (or: therefore) you see that it is those of faith who are sons of Abraham.”

    We have an invitation to the royal ball because we are FOJ.. (Friends Of Jesus) and He knows us and we know Him. So to our best ability, with what we have, with where we are, we put on our best attire. Thankfully we are presented and announced spotless by the Herald at the entrance to the royal ball, by virtue of what Jesus says about us to the host, not by what we say about ourselves. Faith and trust, and fruit will come.

  56. Hello Mike (re: #50),

    I’m glad you’re participating here, and I’ve giving you some leeway because you’re new here. But I want to inform you of our comment guidelines. The comment boxes here are not a forum to use simply as a soapbox to promote your own ideas. They are to be used for dialogue, in particular, to engage the article at the top of this page. So if on some point you disagree with the article at the top of this page, you’ll need to point to the statements in it with which you disagree, and then give reasons for your disagreeing with those statements. Merely asserting your own opinions does not meet the criteria for participation here. Thanks!

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  57. Hi Mike (#53),

    You wrote,

    If you are saying the Roman Catholic theology of “infused righteousness” is required to cause God to change His statutory view toward David, you have too low a view of God’s character.

    I’m not saying that theology is what is required to change someone from an enemy of God to a friend of God – I’m saying that God pouring His love into someone’s heart is what is required.

    As for the greatness of God, God’s Word tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law. Therefore, since the fulfillment of a thing is more glorious than the thing itself, a view of salvation based on Christ pouring out His love in our hearts brings greater glory to God than a view of salvation based on Christ obeying the law in my place.

    Jeremy

  58. #56

    Bryan,

    Thanks for the comment guildlines link, I will read it.

    All in good humor, but “soapbox” is a cheap shot. Nothing I’ve written is something for which I seek credit. The credit, quotes, or ideas I have used belong to Paul, Jesus, King David, Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, or lines from Les Miserable.

    Peace.

  59. Mike (re: #58),

    When I say that the comment boxes here are not a forum to use simply as a soapbox, I do not mean that what you say is all original with you. I mean that you are misusing the forum by treating as if it is your own website to say whatever you want, even if all you say are quotations from other persons. Because this is a communal forum, there are rules here that disallow that sort of thing. If persons wish to participate here, they have to enter into dialogue with the existing conversation, engaging it rationally and respectfully. They have to refrain from disengaging the existing material and lecturing about their own beliefs, no matter from whom they have derived these beliefs.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  60. Psalm 22:4-5 King David wrote (David is talking about ancestors prior to the giving of the law)

    4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
    5 To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

    Leviticus 16:20-22 After the law is given, King David would have been intimately familiar with the going’s on regarding the need for a substitution to impute the sins of the people to, “the scape goat”. But the above mentioned, Psalm 22:4-5, seems to be what David leans on under pressure, ex. Psalm 51.

    20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. 21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

    Ephesian 1: 13-14 Paul speaks about belief, and guaranteed assurance to the Ephesian gentiles who have the Holy Spirit.

    13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

    Peace out.

  61. Hi Mike (#60),

    The subject of the post isn’t atonement in Leviticus 16, and it isn’t assurance of salvation in Paul’s letters. It’s how David understood himself to be righteous before God. To the best of my knowledge, David didn’t look to the scapegoat to wander into the desert and obey God perfectly in his place.

    Jeremy

  62. Jeremy,

    The subject of the post has everything to do with Leviticus 16. David is a Jew. Yom Kippur is the most important day for a Jew. David’s thoughts concerning righteousness would have been totally influenced by God’s prescription to Israel concerning sin. David writes in Psalm 111:9

    “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever— holy and awesome is his name.”

    David’s context for right standing before God is based on the prescription God provided, righteousness based on someone or something else other than David.

  63. Hi Mike (#62)

    The subject of the post has everything to do with Leviticus 16.

    The subject of the post is not to imagine how David would have understood various Old Testament passages and rituals. The subject of the post is what David himself said about being righteous before God. If you think that David would have taken Leviticus 16 as meaning that to be right with God someone had to obey God in David’s place, then you’ll have to prove that from the Psalms.

    You quoted Psalm 111:9:

    “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever— holy and awesome is his name.”

    You’ll need to explain how this quote demonstrates that for David, being right with God was about someone obeying God in his place. Catholics, too, believe that God “provided redemption for his people.” But we believe that He provided it by transforming our hearts from death to life, not by someone obeying Him in our place.

    Jeremy

  64. Jeremy (#62),

    You stated:

    “Here I want to present a simple, scriptural argument against the Reformed position.”

    The burden of proof lies with someone who is making a claim, and is not upon anyone else to disprove. The inability, or disinclination, to disprove a claim does not render that claim valid, nor give it any credence whatsoever.

    That said, what do you make of David’s comment:

    Psalm 19:2 “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”

    No one can confess what they don’t know.

    David’s summary position…

    Psalm 131 “My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. 3 Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.”

  65. Could any of the Catholics who have posted here, including Jeremy, point me to some of the best Catholic responses to the Protestant teaching of the imputed active obedience of Christ? Current/contemporary authors would be great but older material is welcome too. This thread is a good start to the debate, I find.

    Also, Robert (#13) if you are still around, is there a way to reach you privately? I’m sure you will remember me from the CCC days.

    Peace,
    – SS

  66. Nick (#2),

    You make some important points in this post. D.A Carson argued in his article “The Vindication of Imputation” that Jews reading Romans 4 “would not be impressed” if Paul meant faith was credited for righteousness; Carson’s logic being that this would be tantamount to Phinehas’ righteous act being credited as righteousness too, and so a Jew would allegedly see both ‘acts’ (Abraham’s faith and Phinehas’ intervention) as meritorious. But this is sophistry for the simple reason that Paul purposely does NOT reach for Phinehas, but instead picks David to illustrate his argument about Abraham. David had no righteous act that Jews could point to as the basis for righteousness (unlike Phinehas). And so Paul says that Abraham was justified JUST AS David was. Check-mate to the Jews. They would have wanted to adduce Phinehas but Paul was already three moves ahead of them.

    Therefore, it suffices to say that Paul needed not impress the Jews, but rather simply correct their mistaken view of their claimed merit of Abraham (or Phinehas for that matter, given the “counted as righteousness” linguistic connection”. To do that, he points out that Abraham’s FAITH is credited for righteousness. There is no IAOC in view here…

Leave Comment

Subscribe without commenting