Catholics and the Galatian Heresy

| | Comments (45)

Many Protestants say that Catholicism is simply not part of Christianity. They say that Catholic views about justification and salvation in general are not compatible with what the Bible teaches about such matters, and in fact Catholics are teaching what Paul in Galatians calls another gospel, which is not really a gospel at all but something else. Paul was right to condemn the Galatian heresy as another gospel, which is not really a gospel at all but something else. It's quite clear to me that Catholics do not teach or believe the Galatian heresy, however. That leaves it open that Catholic teaching is another gospel besides the Christian one, but if so it's not the one Paul was confronting in Galatians, as many Protestants seem to insist on.

My own view is that some elements within the Catholic church do teach and believe something that might be characterized as another gospel and thus might not saved according to what the Bible teaches about salvation. I'm not sure if this view is another gospel, but it might well be. However, I also firmly believe that many within the Catholic church do not believe another gospel at all. Now that I've said both those statements, let me point out that what I said is consistent with saying that from the top the Catholic view is another gospel, and many within the RCC are faithful to the true gospel despite that. It's also consistent with saying that from the top the view is the true gospel, and many within the RCC depart from that. I actually think both of those would be false, and the reasons are fairly complicated. [Update: I've been corrected on some of what follows. See this post for more information. Apparently Cardinal Ratzinger was not behind the opposition to the Joint Declaration. He in fact opposed that opposition.] The fact is that there isn't a teaching that can be said to be from the top, because the Pope John Paul II and [Update: some within] the catechizing wing of the Vatican have endorsed conflicting theologies, one of them as far as I can tell fully consistent with Reformation theology, at least on the matter of justification.

The Official Catholic View of Justification

The Council of Trent anathematized Protestants, claiming that Luther and those who followed his teachings were believing a doctrine contrary to the truth, one that should be condemned. This has been the basis of Protestants' condemnation of Roman Catholicism for centuries, because it's fairly obvious to most Protestants that their own views are closer to the historic Christian gospel of the New Testament than the views Catholics have taken in contrast to those of Luther. It's not entirely clear that the current Catholic understandings of their official position, taught in the official catechism, are the same as those taught in the days of Luther and in the days of Trent. My concern right now is not with what the views of that time were but with what Catholics today say about the Protestant statement of the gospel and what they say in contrast to it about their own understanding of the gospel.

The official Catholic view according to the catechism, run by the teaching wing of the Vatican, is what might be called semi-Pelagian. Augustine and Pelagius debated over whether justification comes from God before we begin our development in Christian life or whether it's something we bring upon ourselves by our own effort. Pelagius believed that we could bring ourselves to holiness by our own effort, fully apart from God. Augustine countered that it requires a work of God for that holy life even to be possible. Augustine was clearly the winner of that debate, both on the merits of his arguments (because he was arguing what scripture teaches from scripture) and in terms of which view was accepted by the authorities. The church took Augustine's side eventually. What's happened since then is that one element of Pelagian thinking has taken a seat in a generally Augustinian picture, which is why Catholic theology is sometimes called semi-Pelagian. I'll get to exactly which element that is shortly, but first it's important to see the views of Martin Luther as a contrast.

Luther and the Protestants who came after him taught that justification is a work of God's grace, unearned in any sense. It's a legal declaration of righteousness based on the righteousness of Christ that we've taken on, but this all happens in one shot. It's not as if we're first made righteous and then declared righteous, and it's not as if we're fully righteous in the outworking of our lives before we're declared so. We're righteous now. Our life just doesn't reflect it. We have a nature of righteousness.

The Catholic view, on the other hand, is that God's grace initiates salvation. It gets people into the covenant, so to speak. Then God keeps them there by his grace in the same way Luther thought, by provoking good works, i.e. by the work of the Holy Spirit to bring people into the kind of holiness that God initiates in us from the moment his work first began. The difference between Catholics and Protestants is in what justification is. For Catholics, justification has generally been thought to be a being declared righteous at the end of one's life, on the basis of those works that were graciously bestowed on us by the work of God's Spirit. What's Pelagian about this is that the works do earn merit, on the basis of which God declares people righteous. What's Augustinian about it is that the works are a product of the grace of God and not something anyone can do without God's grace. This is something almost all Protestants fail to grasp about Catholicism. There is no such thing in Catholic teaching as salvation by works in the sense most Protestants talk about when they use that expression. It's salvation by grace, but that grace saves through the Holy Spirit's producing of works.

Many Reformed types will declare this to be salvation by works, but they're just wrong. It's salvation by grace through works, whereas Paul said we're saved by grace through faith and not as a result of works. In that, this view denies what the Bible teaches. The salvation is as a result of works. Yet it's not salvation by works any more than Protestants believe in salvation by faith (which the same types will say they believe in, but they don't, or they're as heretical as they say Catholics are, because faith is a work). The salvation is by grace in both cases. The difference is not in what grounds salvation, which is something we can't bring ourselves to achieve in either case. The difference is in what God's grace uses to bring it about. That's why it's only Semi-Pelagian. So those who claim that Catholics believe in salvation by grace are just misinformed and attacking a straw man.

There is one statement in James that Catholics use to support the claim that faith alone does not save. That's James's own claim that faith alone does not save. After all, even the demons have faith. They do. They believe that Christ is who he said he was. They believe that people will be saved through him. There is one NT word for belief and faith. Demons believe. They don't believe in the way that we would now more specifically call faith. That kind of faith isn't what they have. James is right that belief alone isn't enough, and that's what Catholics mean when they say that salvation isn't by faith alone. It's a process that involves works, i.e. only those who believe who have the kind of belief that turns out to be genuine trust, genuine commitment to Christ as Lord, will be saved. Paul points out many times that lots of people will appear to be doing this, but their overall life will show that they hadn't been doing it at all. That's why faith alone is not sufficient. This is the point of James 2.

At the same time, there's something Protestants should still disagree with the official Catholic catechism about, because Paul teaches that the legal declaration of justification, of having the righteousness of Christ, is something necessary at the outset. It's not merely a declaration at the end of time that works generated by God's grace have been righteous works, though these really only could come from the work of the Holy Spirit, and therefore such a judgment based on works would save only those who have a genuine work of God in their life. The people who would be saved thus turn out to be the same people. The basis of judgment is different, however. It's not based on whether God has produced those works, but it's based on a declaration at the outset.

Is the Catholic View a Heresy?

There are actually some Protestant theologians who want to say that both judgments will happen, and that's a position that I suspect is both logically consistent and consistent with scripture. The question is whether it's believing a different gospel to believe only in the later judgment, the one based on works of the Holy Spirit in one's life. I don't know what to think about this. People I greatly respect take different sides on the question. Some of the more hard-nosed ones on the side that says it's a different gospel are becoming less worthy of respect in my eyes, however, because they don't seem to me to understand the Catholic view as I've just explained it. They think the Catholic view is the Galatian heresy, which scripture explicitly says doesn't lead to salvation. That's not the case, however.

The Galatian heresy takes a work as the foundation of salvation. You can't get into the covenant without circumcision, at least for men. I'm not sure what it says about women, but I assume it would be simply that women would be in if their family head is. That work, and not God's grace, is thus the basis of the very entry into the covenant. That flat out denies the gospel as taught in the scriptures. The Catholic view, on the other hand, does not take any human work as a foundation. God's grace is the foundation. Works will follow, and a judgment at the end is based on God's divinely-inspired works in the person, but those works aren't the basis of anything. That's the crucial reason why Catholics do not believe the Galatian heresy or really anything like it. What they do believe is much closer to the Protestant view, and that's why I'm not going to take a stance on whether it counts as a different gospel. I'm not sure the scriptures tell us whether such a view so counts.

I will say one thing, though. I see statements in scripture that say that people must believe Christ and that people must believe in Christ as the Messiah who saves his people from their sins. Otherwise they will not be saved. I see statements that people must serve Christ as Lord, or they are not his true followers. I haven't seen in the biblical accounts of what it takes to be saved that someone must have all their theology straight. I don't see anything requiring that you understand the basis of how Christ's death achieves salvation. I see nothing expecting people to believe certain views about what justification entails.

For that reason, I see no reason to declare that someone is not saved simply for not believing the specifics of the gospel I have outlined so far in this post. One can follow Christ, trusting in him for salvation, admitting that his death is the foundation of such salvation, without understanding much of how that death is supposed to achieve salvation. One can submit to God's judgment and admit that we can't follow God's ways on our own, trusting that God's way of providing a means will be sufficient, all without having any idea how that trust leads to salvation. Therefore, I have great difficulty saying that someone who believes the official Catholic teaching does not do what the gospel requires. Even if an element of it is different from an important piece of what makes the gospel true, it's just not clear to me that the person doesn't believe in Christ and follow him in the only way Christ requires.

At the same time, I do think the official Catholic catechism is easily deceptive, and that's its real danger. I think it's easy to misunderstand what that catechism teaches and thus think that it really is works that save. I wonder how many thousands of Catholics believe that works will save them. I'm sure I know at least a hundred myself who believe that and are therefore not trusting in Christ but in their own works. Of course, this danger arises from the people who teach that faith saves as well. Those who believe that believing saves you run the danger of giving people the idea that they can earn their salvation by trusting in God hard enough, by having the hope with all their heart that they might have enough faith to be saved. That's just as much salvation by works as the other, and Protestants run that danger if they don't teach grace as the foundation of God's declaration of our righteousness.

The Joint Declaration and John Paul II

So much for the official catechism. At the outset, I said that Pope John Paul II has endorsed a different view. Here's how that came about. During the 20th Century, Catholic theologians began to do more in the realm of biblical scholarship. A number of these scholars have become quite well recognized among the best biblical scholars as having contributed much to the field in masterful ways. This includes such scholars as Raymond Brown, Roland Murphy, Rudolf Schnackenburg, Jerome Quinn, Francis Moloney, Daniel Harrington, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Joseph Fitzmyer. Some of these scholars have turned out to argue that the NT authors held views much like those of the Reformation figures such as Luther and Calvin. Fitzmyer and Johnson in particular sound very Protestant in their interpretations of Romans and in Johnson's case James as well. Their reading of the NT is much closer to Luther than to the Catholic catechism.

Apparently some of the higher-ups became influenced by this change. That's what, from the Catholic side, spurred on the Joint Declaration a few years back between the Catholics and the Lutherans, something that I think has been grossly misunderstood by many people who have written about it. What seems to have happened is that many Catholic theologians and biblical scholars came to a surprising conclusion. They discovered that Catholics have used the term 'justification' to describe what Protestant systematic theologians have called progressive sanctification, and Catholics who went back to Paul and saw his usage realized that all along Protestants have just been used the terminology the way Paul did. The pope caught wind of this and called for an exploration of what went on, which eventually led to the Joint Declaration.

This all stemmed from a desire that was shared by John Paul II that Catholics do something about a problem. They can't go back on Trent. It's an official council of the Roman Catholic Church, and those are like the laws of the Medes and Persians. They can't be changed. I think that's an irrational view, but that's how it is for Catholics. Yet it was clear to these people, including John Paul II, that Trent misunderstood Luther and anathematized him over something he didn't believe.

The view Trent anathematized is held by real people, but Luther wasn't one of them. Zane Hodges is a contemporary example of someone who holds this view. It says that salvation comes from mere intellectual assent (something James declares that even the demons have). Hodges doesn't represent his view this way, but that's what it amounts to. An act of that sort of minimal belief begins real salvation, even if the person turns out to demonstrate that there was never any work of the Holy Spirit to transform the person, never even any commitment to Christ as Lord. If that's all that takes to save someone, and they're saved permanently as a result, as Hodges thinks, then it really is a troublesome view. No wonder Trent declared Luther anathema if that's what they thought he believed!

The only problem is that Luther didn't hold such a view. He was quite committed to the doctrine of justification by faith, not by mere intellectual assent or emotional attachment + intellectual assent (which would distinguish someone from the demons, at least). Faith involves something further, a commitment of trust and a devotion to Christ as Lord. It also involves a genuine work of the Holy Spirit, something God won't go back on, and therefore a true case of conversion will be a permanent case of conversion. Some cases may appear to be conversions, and intellectual assent and emotional change may accompany them, but that is not the work of God. In the end, someone whose conversion is a real result of the work of the Holy Spirit will be someone who is transformed, whose life is holy. The outworking of that holiness is a process, at least until death, but the holiness in one's life if one is in Christ will have that effect.

In discovering that Luther didn't believe what they thought he did, and that Luther's views seem to fit very well with Paul's, it became clear to John Paul II that they really needed to struggle with what to do about Trent, because he and a number of other people close to him no longer believed they could anathematize Protestants as a whole. Yet they couldn't reverse a council. Therefore, what they ended up doing was reversing the judgment on Protestants in general and restricting it to what Trent declares if 'justification by faith' refers to this caricature of Protestantism that only some people actually hold to. Only the view described at Trent is anathema. The people thought to hold it are not, if indeed they don't hold it.

[Update: This is where I was most misreading what happend. See the link above in my update. Apparently Ratzinger had nothing to do with the objection to the Joint Declaration.] The teaching wing that produces the catechism, led by Cardinal Ratzinger, objected to the pope's actions on this issue, and the Vatican thus acted as if the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. The pope signed this statement, and the catechism remained unchanged. Cardinal Ratzinger wasn't willing to modify it, but the pope wasn't willing to let that stop him from signing something that many key figures in the Catholic hierarchy believed, including him. This seems to show that there's a real division within the Catholic church on the matter of justification. I suspect that a good number of people high up in the hierarchy believe something much closer to what Protestants believe than the catechism would allow as it stands, and the pope was among them, given his efforts to spearhead this attempt to state that.

It remains to be seen what will happen with a new pope, and even that may not be fully definitive, because they may select someone a little older this time just so they don't have another long and influential pope for a little while. It would be like selecting Bush as Reagan-lite to honor Reagan but not expecting that he'd be a major policy-setter and not being confident enough in him to elect him for a second term. The way that last part has to be done for a pope is that they pick someone older, but otherwise many of those factors could guide the cardinals' decision. All this is to say that it may not be under the next pope that this issue will get settled. I've been wondering if any of the people they're talking about as possible candidates might have things to say on this issue, but no news organizations, including the Protestants ones I've seen, seem to be interested in this, though it's the most fundamental of all issues regarding the next pope as far as Protestants are concerned.

So what about the question that spurred this all on. What about the salvation of John Paul II? Ultimately it's not up to human beings to decide for any individual person whether that person believes the gospel. I was impressed at Ray Pritchard's attitude on the question of whether the Pope is in heaven. He criticizes some Catholic views he finds troubling, and he expresses his view that we shouldn't pronounce further on the pope's own internal spiritual state. That's not for us to know, pronounce, or presume. I do think there's some evidence against the common Protestant claim that John Paul II believed a gospel contrary to what Protestants believe the Bible teaches, so I wanted to make it clear why I think that. Ultimately, though, this is mere evidence, as is anything we can point to when it comes to matters of the heart. Judgment belongs only to God, because only God has any basis on which to judge. Still, we have some evidence, and my guess is that it points to John Paul II being with God now.

45 Comments

Wow, that was a long post! It was intersting though and a lot of topics in there for discussion.

As I have commented in another thread, I do see your point about similarities between Catholic views and Protestant views which set for a justification by faith and judgment according to works. I am thinking of Schreiner/Piper in particular and their views on Rom. 2:6-11. The same would apply to Moo on James 2. Yet I don't think it is so simple to conclude that there are no differences and I know you yourself acknowledged that there were still differences.

I want to consider three quotes.

Jeremy:
"There is no such thing in Catholic teaching as salvation by works in the sense most Protestants talk about when they use that expression."

"Many Reformed types will declare this to be salvation by works, but they're just wrong."

I am not so sure that it is this simple. Just because Catholics acknowledge the works are enabled by God I am not sure that it excludes be called salvation by works. One thing E. P. Sanders has corrected is a simplistic view that first century Judaism was a pure and simple works religion. According to Sanders, they "get in" by grace but "stay in" with works. But these works were thought to be with the aid of God's enabling. Now I am aware of the various critiques of Sanders. For example, the 2 volume Justification and Variegated Nomism. I myself think Sanders is really wrong on Paul and reductionistic regarding first century Judaism. But he does bring out that it was not a works religion pure and simple. The point that more traditional scholars have made is that although official theology may talk of "works enabled by God" it is easy to slip into thinking you are earning God's favor. Hence, Gathercole can compile numerous passages showing an expetation of works righteousness at final judgment. Others have even noted something interesting in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee thanks God for his piety. We often overlook that. One can be proud before God while saying the words of acknowleding God for producing such works. Here is where justification coming at the beginning as a full declaration that does not grow or progress is essential. For Paul it cuts off all boasting! All of this tells me that Paul would still find Catholic theology problematic and another gospel. And it still may be worthy of being called salvation by works. There are a couple of other reasons why I would suggest this.

Jeremy:
"What's Pelagian about this is that the works do earn merit, on the basis of which God declares people righteous. What's Augustinian about it is that the works are a product of the grace of God and not something anyone can do without God's grace."

Here there seems to be a tension. Are works enabled by God or are they fully of God? If we can take any bit of credit and they earn merit, then we may not have a pure and simple works theology (but then again is there ever such a thing), but Paul says that there is no room for boasting before God whatsoever.

Jeremy:
"I don't see anything requiring that you understand the basis of how Christ's death achieves salvation."

I would agree with you here. But we must believe that Christ's death and resurrection is the sole basis of our salvation. Paul left no room for boasting. He would boast only in the cross, believers are those who boast in Christ Jesus. It is no longer Paul who lives, but Christ. Paul continually talks of what Christ accomplishes and he sees no room to boast. Here is where I believe justification as a declaration at the beginning is essential. Here the focus pushes us outside of ourselves to what God has done in Christ leaving no room for boasting. While when the focus becomes what God is doing in us, it is very dangerous for it to slide into no longer depending wholly on Christ's death and resurrection. Again, I would point to first century Judaism and the various critiques of the New Perspective that it easily slips into a works theology. Plus, the stance that works earn merit further adds to the danger.

Lastly some comments regarding Luther. The current position of Schreiner/Piper may owe more to Melancthon than Luther. In fact, Seifrid describes an interesting debate between Luther and Melancthon where both have concerns about each other's position and what each other to explain how they differ from the Catholic position.

Also a key issue is that for Luther faith is the root from which "true" works spring. What makes a work truly "good" is that it springs from faith. Any work that does not spring from faith is rubbish. Thus, justification needs to come up front. For it is only in justification that we are brought to nothing wholly believing that we are sinful wretches. And it is only here that true works can come. Anything not coming from such faith only has the appearance of good works and is merely rubbish. Our righteousness works our works rather than our works working our righteousness (I am paraphrasing a line I have read often).

Thus, for me, there are surely some saved Catholics, but I believe their theology would sure make it difficult. I am open to being corrected though since I am not well informed on Catholic theology, but am rather working with what you have written.

Ah, sorry for another post. I thought of how I want to rephrase my conclusion. I believe that individual Catholics would not be saved because of the official theology, but in spite of it.

I think Moo takes the same view in Rom 2. I don't feel like going back upstairs to check his commentary, because I just got myself settled, but I believe that was the first place I ever encountered this idea, and I saw it in Schreiner later. I'm fairly confident Carson says something similar in his paper on assurance.

According to Sanders, it's inappropriate to say the Pharisees believed in salvation by works. My point parallels his, except I don't agree that he's captured the Pharisees in their diversity, and thus I don't agree that such a view is the only one Paul might be dealing with. The Galatian heretics weren't faithful Pharisees anyway, so we don't know if we could read their view off Sanders' reconstruction even if he were right.

As I already said, I think there are bad things about this view. That doesn't mean it's another gospel. If it turns out to make it easier to be proud of one's works, that's perfectly consistent with what I've said. If it turns out it makes it easier to be so proud of one's works that one is not justified, that's also consistent with what I said. In fact, it's what I explicitly said in the last paragraph of the middle section, the one on whether Catholic teaching counts as a heresy.

I would say that the same thing could easily happen with the Sandersian Pharisees, and thus we can easily explain the Galatian heresy arising out of that milieu even if Sanders is right about the view he assigns monolithically to the Pharisees.

Are works enabled by God or are they fully of God?

I think the official Catholic teaching is consistent with either. A monergistic reading would be more Augustinian, and a synergistic reading would be more Pelagian. This corresponds to the difference in Protestantism between Calvinism and Arminianism. I know some Catholics who are Augustinian in their view of God's sovereignty, and I'm sure they'd join him here too. It's not as if that view hasn't been represented over the centuries since the Reformation. The Jansenists were one major group that followed Augustine in this (and in fact in in far more, enough to get them excommunicated over time for being too close to Protestants, but they lasted quite a while before that).

It seems from your description that Luther thinks the faith that produces good works needs to be aware of our own inability to produce good works, or it can't produce good works. I do think this is consistent with the catechism view, assuming it goes the monergistic way I just outlined. I'm not sure this claim you're attributing to Luther is correct, however. Is it really true that the Holy Spirit can't produce good works in me until after I believe that I can't produce them on my own? Isn't faith a good work? If so, then the work of faith will never come, because it can't come until after the Holy Spirit has brought one to the point of realizing one's inadequacy.

Jeremy:
"Yet it's not salvation by works any more than Protestants believe in salvation by faith (which the same types will say they believe in, but they don't, or they're as heretical as they say Catholics are, because faith is a work)."

"Of course, this danger arises from the people who teach that faith saves as well. Those who believe that believing saves you run the danger of giving people the idea that they can earn their salvation by trusting in God hard enough, by having the hope with all their heart that they might have enough faith to be saved."

I see two issues. One is that although some people have some messed up ideas as you describe in the second quote, there is a key difference. By DEFINITION faith looks outside of onself to what God has done in Christ. The same cannot be said about works. Thus, the formulation regarding works is dangerous while in the formulation regarding faith boasting is excluded by definition. By definition faith excludes boasting as Paul says in Romans. Second, Paul can say "are justified freely by his grace" (Rom. 3:24)and he can also speak of justification by faith (numerous places), but he explicitly says that a man can't be justified by works (numerous places). Note that he can speak of justification BY grace and justification BY faith but he excludes justification BY works. So on the Catholic view the danger arises out of the very nature of the view and yet in your second quote the danger arises out of a DISTORTION of the view. For the very definition of faith looks outside of oneself to what God has done in Christ for us.

I did a paper on Romans 2:6-11 so I know that Piper/Schreiner take a judgment according to works view. Moo takes a hypothetical sort of view. I don't believe Carson comments on that passage in the assurance article (I also did a paper on assurance). Cranfield takes a view like Piper/Schreiner. I am not sure where Dunn is. O'Brien takes the view with Moo in his article in the second volume of Justification and Variegated Nomism.

I do realize that much of what I said cohered with what you said, but I also felt that at points I expanded on some aspects.

I also think that the connection of Sanders to Galatians might then meant that Paul might call the Catholic view another gospel. I don't think the Galatian heresy was a pure and simple works righteousness in the traditional protestant sense. That is why I raised the issue.

Yeah, I do think the monergestic issue is big. I mentioned that in another thread on this sort of issue.

I think for Luther faith is not a work. Faith is a new tree and works are the fruit. Thus, they aren't in the same category. Works are concrete actions where the heart of course matters to. But that is my point. Faith is the source of works and so can't be a work.

Thus, the formulation regarding works is dangerous while in the formulation regarding faith boasting is excluded by definition.

Maybe that's true of real faith, but that's not the only kind of faith that people will think of when misunderstanding this sort of formulation. I can certainly imagine someone being proud of having faith and pointing the finger at others who do not, and in that case it's really their pride in themselves that forms the basis of the belief that they're saved. I'm sure this is what goes on with many finger-pointers in the more fundamentalist wing of evangelicalism.

As for Paul's willingness to speak uncarefully, I have no problem with that, because he's willing to be more careful when necessary. The context and audience determine how specific the language needs to be.

I'm not sure if your last point follows unless Sanders is right. I think we have enough reason not to think the Catholic catechetical view is like the view Paul calls "justification by works" in that passage.

Clearly when Paul speaks of justification by faith it's not in the same sense as when he speaks of justification by grace. The question is whether justification by works is the sense of the former or the latter. Given that James says justification is not by faith alone but by faith and works, and given that the synthesis proposed by people like Moo is correct, Paul can't mean justification by works is out when it's justification of the kind James speaks of.

It all depends on whether one can be proud of one's works, according to the first verses of Romans 4. If those works are a product of God, then one can't. If I trust the one who justifies the ungodly, even if I believe I'm trusting for good works to be produced by God so that God will merit my salvation through my works, then it's still trusting in the godly, and that's not the view Paul is criticizing.

So the issue is not whether one is believing certain things about faith. It's whether one has faith. I think that's possible even if you hold the view taught in the catechism, provided you don't hold pride in your works to the point of thinking they're what grounds your salvation, and provided you don't think you're doing these works in any way in your own power but realize you couldn't do them at all without God.

There is no such thing in Catholic teaching as salvation by works in the sense most Protestants talk about when they use that expression.

Can I ask for your opinion, then, on the comment I heard by a man--I'm pretty sure they identified him as the president of Catholic University of America--on CNN this afternoon? During the homily at the mass today, there was this statement made:

We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us.

Wolf Blitzer asked this man whose name I forget (who was a very reverend, BTW) what he thought of that statement. He replied (and I tried to memorize the statement, so this is a pretty direct quote) that he had no doubt whatsoever that the pope had earned his place in the Father's house.

I was actually taken aback by that, because that is exactly what I mean when I talk about salvation by works. I don't think it matters a whole lot whether someone thinks works are graciously enabled or not, if they think that entrance to heaven is "earned" by them, simply because what is "out of works is not out of grace, or grace is no longer grace."

Anyway, back to my question. Do you think this statement accurately represents Catholic teaching or not?

I agree largely with what you are saying, but that is assuming that you read the catechism as monergistic. It all seems to hang there. Not being familiar with it, I can't say. Something you said made me think it is somewhat ambiguous and could be taken either way. And if that is the case, it would be problematic partially in what it says, but more so in what it is ambiguous on.

Jeremy:
"I can certainly imagine someone being proud of having faith and pointing the finger at others who do not, and in that case it's really their pride in themselves that forms the basis of the belief that they're saved. I'm sure this is what goes on with many finger-pointers in the more fundamentalist wing of evangelicalism."

I can wholeheartedly concur with what you are saying here. In my preching lab awhile back I preached the Pharisee and Tax Collector with somebody who is proud of their faith as the Pharisee.

As for the Galatian heresy thing, if the catechism is synergistic or read that way, then I would see it more open to being another gospel. If read mongergistically I would see it as less related to the Galatian heresy and it would have to be evaluated on other grounds.

Incidently, this is one of the major critiques of first century Judaism even if Sanders is right. Laato says that the issue comes down to anthropology. Even if Sanders is right it is synergistic.

Perhaps the reason we hear ideas of "earned" is because the catechism is being read syngergistically and thus is much more open to ideas of "earned" and "merit."

Rebecca, the quote you give sounds to me as if it's not about whether the pope is in hell but whether he's in purgatory. Catholics frequently speak of the distinction between who goes to heaven and purgatory as an in-house thing, much the way Protestants might speak of a judgment of works that will determine one's reward in heaven. I don't see how this would justify concluding that the speaker thought the pope had earned his way out of hell. Maybe he did, but the quote itself doesn't require that.

I was actually taken aback by that, because that is exactly what I mean when I talk about salvation by works. I don't think it matters a whole lot whether someone thinks works are graciously enabled or not, if they think that entrance to heaven is "earned" by them, simply because what is "out of works is not out of grace, or grace is no longer grace."

Then on your view, Douglas Moo, Thomas Schreiner, John Piper, and other Reformed evangelicals believe in salvation by works. They believe that in the end God will declare us righteous after having lived a life of works monergistically inspired by him that could not have happened without his grace. They also believe in justification at the outset, which Catholics don't believe in. However, the words you took issue with seem to me to be perfectly consistent with Reformed thinking (and I would say even required by it if we're to take the words of scripture seriously, but it would take a whole post to argue that).

It seems to me that the right thing to say is that what is out of works isn't merely out of works or grace is not grace. If grace underlies those works, then what is out of works is indeed out of grace in the most fundamental way. It just can't be merely out of works and still be out of grace. The works themselves aren't doing anything. The grace that provokes the works is what accomplishes it, fundamentally. That doesn't necessitate that a judgment based on works is impossible.

This is surely what would have happened had there been no sin. Adam and Eve would have lived sinlessly on the basis of God's grace. Would it be inaccurate to say they'd earned their justification? It's misleading, because it can mean two different things, but on one of them it's true, and I think in the same sense we are justified by faith through works. That's in fact what James outright says!

Keith, I don't think the catechism is clear on the monergism/synergism issue, but I know enough Catholics who think of it monergistically and criticize Protestants (i.e. Arminians) for going too far in the other direction that I think it has to be at least consistent with it. I'll have to ask someone who knows more about this. I won't see him until Sunday.

I'm assuming your worry about a catechism ambiguous on this matter is akin to the worries we both seem to agree on so far. It's a worry that it's misleading, not a worry that necessitates that people who agree with it have believed a false gospel. Such is the result of ambiguity.

Jeremy:
"It's a worry that it's misleading, not a worry that necessitates that people who agree with it have believed a false gospel."

Assuming it is ambiguous, I would say that it does not necessitate a false gospel, but I would say that it would lead many people to believe a false gospel. If it is ambiguous, I think the tendancy would be that people would naturally think in terms of synergistic and in the realities of life that is what it will begin to feel like. But, yes, assuming it is ambiguous, I would agree that it does not necessitate a false gospel. The key word being "necessitate." It mind promote a false gospel, but not necessitate it. But again, not actually being familiar with Catholic theology I am working with what you are saying and speaking somewhat hypothetically.

I will say also that I think that justifcation by faith in a Reformed perspective further helps secure that salvation is all of God even beyond purely monergistic/synergistic issues. The degree to which this is the case depends on the precise formulation of justification by faith and judgment according to works. There are a number of variations. For example, is final judgment a weighing of works or the life viewed as a whole. Yinger says there is no such distinction while Seifrid thinks there is and thus first century Judiasm would speak of "works" while Paul speaks of a "work" in Romans 2:6-11. Another issue is whether final judgment is a manifestation of what is there or a weighing of works. Seifrid also has a view that differs from Schreiner/Piper.

Another angle on this issue, is that I think there are differences between the Catholic view and the protestant view in terms of assurance and the imperative and indicative. It seems to me that all but a Puritan view of assurance would result in stronger assurance for the Reformed person. After all, I believe Carson makes a similar point in response to Marshall's comment saying that Arminians and Calvinists end up on the same practical result. Also, I think the protestant view has a healthier indicative/imperative relationship. Paul can give the "be what you are" imperatives.

I would be interested in what Catholics themselves would say on the monergism/synergism issue.

I would be curious as to what John Piper would say to all this. He has written a major work defending the importance of imputation and justification. He sure thinks it totally separates him from Catholics so I wonder what he would say. Gerhard Forde has some interesting discussions that really bring out the tensions and instability in a scheme like Piper's justification by faith and judgment according to works. It seems that one will get rid of the other.

Personally, I favor Seifrid's view and if his reading were correct, then there would be further distinctions from Catholics.

What does Seifrid say about James, then, if it's not a declaration of justification at the end of a life that's turned out to have been righteous?

Ah, Seifrid, one of the most difficult reads out there. It would be far too much for me to summarize in one place. I am working on an article for an online journal taking Seifrid's views and applying it to the Lordship debate and assurance.

I can try and exlain some parameters of Seifrid's views, but again it is so complex and involves many issues.

Seifrid believes that Rom. 2:6-11 refers the life viewed as a whole and not a weighing of deeds. He emphasizes the singular "work" and believes he has other lexical data/examples to back it up. When Paul says works can't justify he is speaking in terms of "works of the law." These are works that originate in man. He believes that most people think that Paul is saying that "works of the law" can't justify because we don't have enough of them, as if the problem was quantity. Seifrid is saying that for Paul the issue is more of quality.

Thus, there does seem to be similarities in the description in Rom. 2:6-11, Rom. 4, and the beginning of Rom. 5.

2:7 "to those who by perseverance in a good work seek for glory and honor..." ("good work" is my translation translating "ergou agathou")

See 4:18-21, Abraham hopes against hope, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God. 22 says "therefore it was credited to him as righteousness" In a number of these passages in Rom. 4 it is Abraham's faith that is reckoned as righteousness.

The passage in 4:18-21 overlooks Abraham's failures and sins. Then it goes on to make the comparison that it will be the same for us who have the faith of Abraham. The portrayal in these passages and Rom. 5 seems to portray a perseverance in hope more than a weighing of deeds.

Now onto James 2 and Seifrid's view. He does see it as a declaration by works. It is a justification by works. But Seifrid says that it is not merely justification by works, but by works in which faith is present. Seifrid sees works as merely faith come to maturity so to speak. Thus, it is not a weighing of deeds. In fact we in ourselves are still ungodly, but it is the works in which faith is present that receives the declaration of justification.

There is so much more to his view and what I have said probably does not seem very compelling, but it would take too much space to fully explain.

If Seifrid is right then I tend to feel that in some senses Catholic theology seems more like "works of the law" which don't encompass the whole person but are outward actions and that it is trying to aqcuire enough of them. If Seifrid is right James is not talking about a weighing of deeds and having enough to get in, but rather merely that faith will manifest itself in works, but the issue is not having more good than bad. Thus, there would be a difference even if we tag on the idea that God enables such deeds in Catholic theology. Works justify because in them faith is present.

You will probably not think it is a big deal, but I probably don't do Seifrid's view justice.

Even then I would still agree that people could be saved if they see the catechism as monorgistic. If they depend wholly on Christ's work on the cross alone, even if wrong on how or why it works and so forth, then I believe they would be saved.

I don't see how this would justify concluding that the speaker thought the pope had earned his way out of hell.

He didn't say that, and that isn't what I concluded that he meant, either. He said he "earned his place in heaven," which to me makes a place in heaven something that is merited. It sounds like, from that particular statement, that the meritorious grounds for a place in heaven is (at least partly) the works of the person being saved.

Then on your view, Douglas Moo, Thomas Schreiner, John Piper, and other Reformed evangelicals believe in salvation by works. They believe that in the end God will declare us righteous after having lived a life of works monergistically inspired by him that could not have happened without his grace.

No, because they don't believe that the meritorious grounds for us being declared righteous is our lifetime of works. Even Lordship salvation people--and I would put myself in that group--would say that the meritorious grounds of our final justification (or being made truly righteous) is Christ's work. He's the one who "earns" it. I don't think you'd have any Lordship salvation advocate saying we "earn" our final declaration of righteousness, even though it comes after we show God-worked obedience, because that obedience isn't what merits any of our salvation, including the final step of our justification--our glorification.

All the merit is Christ's merit alone. In fact, the reformed idea of "justification by faith alone" is really sort of short hand for "justification by Christ's merits alone" because faith is trusting in the merits of Christ alone--giving ourselves up to his righteousness. Our righteousness is earned for us by Christ.

It seems to me that the right thing to say is that what is out of works isn't merely out of works or grace is not grace.

Oooh....I don't think so. Paul says that if something is "by grace", it cannot be "on the basis of works". That doesn't sound like "merely" out of works, but rather that to the extent that something is recieved on the basis of works it is not received through grace. Never can the basis (or grounds or merit) for anything we recieve by grace be in anyway from any works other than Christ's own obedience.

On the basis of Christ's obedience, God graciously works obedience in us, but that God-worked obedience is never the basis (or grounds) of anything we receive. It justifies us in the sense that it vindicates (or proves) the genuiness of our faith (James using "justification" in a different sense than Paul does.)

This is surely what would have happened had there been no sin. Adam and Eve would have lived sinlessly on the basis of God's grace. Would it be inaccurate to say they'd earned their justification? It's misleading, because it can mean two different things, but on one of them it's true, and I think in the same sense we are justified by faith through works. That's in fact what James outright says!

I don't think we can say what would have happened if A and E hadn't sinned. The point is that they didn't live sinlessly, and the result of that is that everything that we recieve from God (even our good works) is given to us on the meritorious grounds of Christ's work. He earns it, we don't.

I don't know if I responded to everything or not, but I've got to go right now anyway. I've no time to proof read either....

Jeremy, have you considered that perhaps the person Rebecca is quoting is reading the catechism synergistically and not monergistically? If that is the case, then that would explain the idea of earning a place in heaven. Perhaps he is describing something like a works salvation, because he reads the catechism synergistically. I still maintain that if read synergistically, there would be a good case for seeing that reading as something close to the Galatian heresy. It is ONLY monergistically that it would be in some other category between Pauline thought and the Galatian heresy.

Your comparative apprisal is ok and I shall not repeat myself on what I think about the whole issue, for I have already said it in other comments. It suffices to say that Luther is just another Roman Catholic priest that discusses things in conformity with the manners Roman Catholic priests argue and refute.

However, the view that Catholicism is not part of Christianity is not only a big Historical ignorance, it is a prejudice against the Catholics and just another attempt to impose beliefs on People who may challenge Protestant assumptions. It is just another type of odious statement, lan attempt to force persons into senseless fights. Nobody makes such claim with good or honest intention. The only intention is to destroy other groups and other human beings.

Your writting is praiseworthy, but I am affraid that you are trying to argue with fanatic preachers. Your arguments may help non-fanatics to dispell the intolerant rethoric, but will not demove the fundamentalists. And simply because the fundamentalists are not interested in either truth or peace with others.

He believes that most people think that Paul is saying that "works of the law" can't justify because we don't have enough of them, as if the problem was quantity.

I don't think he's right on that score. In fact, I'd say hardly anyone reads Paul that way. The rest of it sounds as if I'd have to read his stuff pretty carefully and in conjunction with lots of other people to evaluate.

Rebecca: He didn't say that the pope will someday be in heaven because of this, which is what a statement strictly about salvation for a Catholic would have to say because of purgatory. He said he is there now, which means he didn't go to purgatory first. That's why I don't think we can assume he's talking about heaven rather than hell. This means that it may well be a difference of reward among those who will all one day be in heaven.

I think my point is that it's ambiguous to say I earn something between my earning it on my own and God earning it through my actions. It may well be that Paul would loathe talking in the latter way, but it sounds to me the way that James does talk, and I can't rule out that Catholics are doing the same thing. As Keith keeps saying, it depends on whether they're thinking in a way that Calvinists call monergistically (though I think that term is extremely misleading, because the view in question is still true if compatibilism is correct, which is exactly why I'm resisting the conclusion that any talk of my doing it is automatically inappropriate).

Tony, you seem to have ruled out a priori the possibility that Catholic teaching might ever change so radically that its teachings are so far removed from the foundational teachings of the apostles. I not only won't rule that out without argument. I'm convinced that some of its teachings are close enough to the ones Paul spends so much time refuting that I think there's a real worry. As I've tried to argue, I don't think there's as strong an argument for this as some people do, but I do think it's a real worry, and I think the views that turn out to be official (according to the catechism) have real dangers.

Jeremy:
"I don't think he's right on that score. In fact, I'd say hardly anyone reads Paul that way. The rest of it sounds as if I'd have to read his stuff pretty carefully and in conjunction with lots of other people to evaluate."

I guess, personally, I have always felt that typically Reformed thinkers have been a bit ambiguous as to whether the issue was quantitative. Becuase they speak heavily about how to try and achieve salvation through works one needs to keep the "whole" law. It is not until reading Seifrid and later Laaton and some other Lutheran thinkers that I really heard the distinction made explicitly. Typical Reformed discussins made me feel like I needed more quantity. But this is purely my experience and so I surely may be wrong about my statement that you are responding to.

Jeremy:
"(though I think that term is extremely misleading, because the view in question is still true if compatibilism is correct, which is exactly why I'm resisting the conclusion that any talk of my doing it is automatically inappropriate)"

I kind of know what you are saying here, but I was wondering if you could expand on what you are thinking here. The fact that some Reformed thinkers can take sanctification synergistically and some monergistically makes me think that the issue is not merely compatibilism, but I would like to hear more fully what you are thinking before responding.

He said he is there now, which means he didn't go to purgatory first......This means that it may well be a difference of reward among those who will all one day be in heaven.

I agree that the point of the statement was that the pope didn't go to purgatory first. But if purgatory is a continuation of the salvation process after death, then I can't see that saying that the pope earned his place in heaven isn't saying that he skipped to the end of the line in the salvation process because he earned that place. In other words, its making a piece of the pope's salvation--the fast track to heaven--based on his merit.

I think my point is that it's ambiguous to say I earn something between my earning it on my own and God earning it through my actions.

I think if you're understanding Lordship salvation advocates as saying that God earns any part of the salvation process for us through our actions you are misunderstanding them. The only actions that earn anything salvation-wise are Christ's in his atoning work. That's what "Solus Christus" is: through Christ alone--only through his own meritorious work on the cross.

it sounds to me the way that James does talk

I don't think so. I think James uses the word "justify" in the same way Jesus does when he says that "wisdom is justified by her children." In the same way that the genuineness of wisdom is proved by what comes from it as a result, we are justified by our works. Our works are the proof of the genuineness of our faith, because the sort of faith that saves (rather than just the sort of faith demons have) is the sort of faith that obeys. But our obedience doesn't earn us anything--salvation-wise, anyway--any more than our faith earns us anything salvation-wise.

it depends on whether they're thinking in a way that Calvinists call monergistically

I don't think so, because I think that one of the fundamental differences between reformation theology and catholic theology is that in reformation theology, even monergistically worked works don't earn us any part of our salvation. The are a certain result of the salvation process, a necessary result of the salvation process, rather than the grounds for any part of the salvation process.

Just as a side note: I think there is a possibility that the man wasn't speaking theologically specifically, and if anyone questioned him, perhaps he'd backtrack a bit.

Rebecca:
"I don't think so. I think James uses the word "justify" in the same way Jesus does when he says that "wisdom is justified by her children." In the same way that the genuineness of wisdom is proved by what comes from it as a result, we are justified by our works. Our works are the proof of the genuineness of our faith, because the sort of faith that saves (rather than just the sort of faith demons have) is the sort of faith that obeys. But our obedience doesn't earn us anything--salvation-wise, anyway--any more than our faith earns us anything salvation-wise."

Your reading of "justified" in James is supported by some Reformed commentators, but lots of them would not take the route of something like "proving the genuineness of faith." Some like Moo take justification to be used in the same manner as Paul, but here we have to do with what happens at final judgment vs. something that takes place at the beginning. I would suspect that Schreiner and Piper would also take a position like this, but am not sure since I have not read their work on that passage lately. I quickly looked at Piper and he seems to read "justification" in James as having the same meaning as the declaration of righteousness and not as showing to be righteous. The key is not in the word "justification" but for me and it seems for Piper that context excludes it being a works salvation. Making an argument from the meaning of "justification" seems weaker to me (although some have made that argument). I would read Moo on the whole lexical issue of "justification."

If I remember right Stein has a somewhat helpful article on James 2 in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's journal of theology. If I remember right, he sets up James statement right against Paul's and suggests that one of them must be using either "faith," "works," or "justified" differently. I can't remember the precise conclusion but it was not in seeing a different meaning of "justified." It seems to me that the better commentators realize that strictly speaking James and Paul are using justified in the same way. Insted the key lies in the different contexts that the satements are found.

I personally favor Seifrid's view, but it takes a lot of reading of his works to get a hold of it (for all I know I may still not have a hold of it totally).

Christianity has always been multi-cultural, although Christians had had problems with dealing with this fact.

Now, dealing with the more technical aspects of the issue.

Firstly, underlying the discussion you mentioned there is an assumption that the relationship between good works, faith, salvation and divine grace is intermediated by time. The opposite factions in the debate you refer to seem to want to find the right chronological order for such things. That is not possible in any monotheist religious system, for these things are interrelated in an atemporal way.

The deabte between those who advocate salvation by works and salvation by faith, as you have exposed above, cannot, as it stands, yield any consensus within the same Church, except by act of obedience to the doctors. The problem is simple and has to do with the manner the Latin Church, now split into Roman Catholics and Protestants, approach the Gospel. What priests with basic Catholic background, like Luther and Saint Augustine, do is what nowadays we could call Catersian interpretation of the Gospel.

The westerners seem to have expected a Philosophical or Scientific work when Christianism was a novelty. So, they would try to find a chapter defining the basic vocabulary and after a set of theorems with their respective demonstrations. But nothing like that existed in the Jewish tradition the apostles emerged from.

Of course, if you want to explain the Gospel, you may try to present it in a form of maieutic or dialectic argumentation or through Cartesian schematisations. That is possible, but that is only a representation for didactic purposes. You cannot expect these schematisations yield uniform results and that people will be able to agree thereon.

Salvation by the works is a doctrine that is repeated when People mean that Christianism is an ethical religion and that ethics cannot be dissociated therefrom. When Paul criticises the idea of salvation by works as opposed to salvation by grace, he is rejecting the idea of an ethics without mercy and intolerant towards human failures. An ethics without such elements is humanly impossible and the ethics of the Gospel is for humans with their characteristics.

In order to attack an opposite inflexible legalist view, which, according to Paul, goes directly against Jesus' teachings of mercy and mutual love, he has to destroy the key conviction of its proponents: the conviction that they have great merits and deserve the divine consideration, and so may be stern and pass judgement on the others. So, argues Paul, those who propose such stern and merciless ethics make the wrong idea of themselves, if they think they have earned salvation by their merits. He says that if they are saved that is due to God's grace= mercy. A merciless ethics is thus another Gospel, which is to say, an ethics other than the ethics the Apostles are teaching.

But in no way Paul dispenses with the notion that Christians are required to try to make good works, i.e., to behave in accordance with Christian ethics. Luther does not deny that either. But Luther had to fight against other practices, in a context where the subjacent assumption was that salvation could be somehow bought.

Becuase they speak heavily about how to try and achieve salvation through works one needs to keep the "whole" law

Actually, that goes the other way. If you have to keep the whole law, then it's not that you need more good deeds but fewer bad deeds, indeed none at all. At least this is how people think in modern times, because they're not thinking of doing good deeds but not doing bad deeds.

Synergism and monergism have been defined, in my experience, as whether the works are produced by God together with us or just by God without our doing anything. Buth when you look at the details, that's clearly not what's going on, because then monergism would be demonstrably false because of the command to work out your own salvation. That verse obviously teaches synergism as defined that way. So what people must mean by those terms is a different distinction. As best as I can tell, the distinction is between whether the work of the Holy Spirit is sufficient for our holiness or whether we need to do something in addition. If the work of the Holy Spirit is sufficient, that doesn't mean that on another level of description we're not also working out our salvation as he works in us.

Rebecca, I'm not talking about Lordship salvation. I'm talking about a view that Schreiner, Piper, and Moo take about God's declaration at the end of time that the works produced by the Holy Spirit are righteous. According to Moo, that's how James uses the term 'justified'. According to Schreiner and Piper, Paul says something similar in Romans 2. This is a works judgment in addition to a judgment on the basis of Christ's righteousness, so that the legal declaration at the end of one's life is matched with a "good and faithful servant" judgment at the end of life.

Jeremy:
"Actually, that goes the other way. If you have to keep the whole law, then it's not that you need more good deeds but fewer bad deeds, indeed none at all. At least this is how people think in modern times, because they're not thinking of doing good deeds but not doing bad deeds."

Maybe we have gotten lost in communication on this issue somewhere. If it is my fault, then I apologize. If I remember right, this all stems from my statement suggesting that Reformed thinkers tend to think "works of the law" can't justify because of a quantity issue more than a quality issue. I was not saying whether there needs to be more good or less bad. But rather my point was that whether one says "more" good or "less" bad that both of those terms are quantity issues over quality issues.

Anyhow, all this was in the context of my suggestion that Seifrid adds a more nuanced view of the "judgment according to works" that may distinguish it further from the Catholic view. But we have pretty much agreed that Seifrid would take much more discussion than can be done on a blog.

Jeremy:
"As best as I can tell, the distinction is between whether the work of the Holy Spirit is sufficient for our holiness or whether we need to do something in addition. If the work of the Holy Spirit is sufficient, that doesn't mean that on another level of description we're not also working out our salvation as he works in us."

I would agree with the way you are using the terms and where you see the key distinction coming. I think the key is "on another level of description." I think on one level we are working our our salvation, but the key is that is on a more "superficial" level. Paul always sees God's action as prior and determinitive. It seems to me that our action is not something added on (like an Arminian scheme), but rather the effect of God's action.

My point would be that although "on another level of description" one could make satements about our working, that Paul himself is always quick to qualify and say that ultimately it is of God and so all the glory goes to God. The issue of boasting seems central in Paul (it is in Rom. 3, 4, 5, Gal. 6, Phil. 3, Eph. 2). It seems that a crucial issue is that Catholic theology, it seems from our discussion may be more open to forgetting that it is only a superficial level that such language of our working is appropriate. It runs the risk of being like Paul and always throwing in the deeper level of God's working as completely determinitive and thus excluding boasting. Here is where Piper and Schreiner would surely be quick to point out a difference.

Sorry, I meant "It runs the risk of NOT being like Paul."

I have never taken monergism to exclude our work. Rather I have always taken monergism to exclude an Arminian notion. Our working is not something added on but rather the effect of God's working. On an Arminian notion it seems that our working is closer to being on the same level as God's working. I say closer, since obviously they see God's work as being prior. It is just not wholly determinative.

I have not thought this out fully, but I have always suspected that the issue of monergism vs. synergism does not completely parallel the issue of compatibilism vs. libertarian freedom. The issues overlap, but there seems to be something more. In compatibilism one sees no contradiction between God's sovereignty and man's responsability. Yet it seems to me that for Paul God is sovereign in salvation in such a way that it excludes boasting. It is this that makes me think the issue is one of monergism vs. synergism. Anyhow, this is just me speculating here.

By 'less bad' I meant no bad, which means all the works that are there are qualitatively bad.

You may be right and maybe I have just misunderstood what Reformed writers were saying on that point. I wouldn't be surprised if that is the case. I will have to pay more attention as I read Reformed writers on these topics in the future. Anyhow, it is more of a tangent than anything else to this whole discussion.

Where it is not recgonized that "our working" is on another more superficial level and really God's working is wholly determinitive, I do think there are some real possible parallels with the Galatian heresy.

In Protestant thought there is no issue of our working for the average person out there, because they are unaware of any notion of judgment according to works (except for the Zane Hodges crowd, but they see it as rewards distinct from salvation). Justification by faith alone as a declaration at the beginning pushes one to look outside of themselves to what God has done in Christ. Those who are theologically sharp enough to realize the place of judgment according to works also tend to be sharp enough to recognize that they are monergistic works.

All of this to say that this is why I would still contend that the issue with Catholic thought is on whether the catechism is understood monergistically or synergistically. If the latter, then it may be close to the Galatian heresy. If the former, then it is not the Galatian heresy, but nor is it fully Pauline because Paul does see the declaration of justification at the beginning and sees it as the declaration at the final judgment brought forward (it is proleptic).

I had an additional thought regarding the statement Rebecca quoted. Although it can't be certain, it does lend itself to a more synergistic reading and thus for me, closer to the Galatian heresy. As I stated earlier, although Paul can speak of "our working" it is always undercut by statements of God's working. The statement quoted by Rebecca does not seem to make much of God's working (of course it might be implied but we are working with the statement as given). If I was asked whether a particular person was in heaven, I would say something more along the lines of "They seemed to be trusting in Christ and the grace of God seemed strong in them." Such a statement does not exclude "our working" strictly speaking but more clearly brings out that the issue is ultimately God's working.

Rebecca:
"that he had no doubt whatsoever that the pope had earned his place in the Father's house."

I thought it would be interesting to contrast this statement with the way that Paul talks about works (in a positive sense) and salvation rather than merely speaking in generalities. So here are some passages to compare with the above quote:

Phil. 1:6 "... He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Phil. 2:12-13 "... work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

Phil. 3:12 "... but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I also was laid hold of by Christ Jesus."

Gal. 2:20 "... it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..."

Rom. 15:18 "For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me..."

1 Cor. 15:10 "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me."

I am not all too familiar with Catholic theology, but I can't help getting the feeling that they sound very different from Paul here even if official statements can be read in two different ways.

I never said the statement sounds like Paul. It's just that there's a way to read it that fits within something that I'm not sure is another gospel. That doesn't mean it's likely that the guy meant that, but I think it's just possible.

Its possible, but it seems like such a slim possibility that it hardly seems worth talking about the possibility. But I understand what you were/are saying.

Let's just keep it simple. Do not Catholics call the Pope the "holy Father"? Oh yes, they do. But the Bible says; Matt:23:9: "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven". I was raised RCC, I know whereof I speak. Do not Catholics teach Mary as a co-intercessor? That we should pray to her? But again the Bible says; 1Tm:2:5: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" Don't see praying to Mary there. Recommended reading "A Woman Rides The Beast" by Dave Hunt and "The Two Babylons" by Hislop (this second one you can read for free on the net, just google it) Catholics are not Christians, they just think they are because the "priests" tell them that. That's what I thought too, until I actually read the Bible.

Mark, I'm planning a post on other issues. I won't respond to them here. This post is not about any one of the issues you raised. I'll deal with them at that point. I'll say at this point that not one of those points is the gospel. There's much more to say, because I'm 99% sure you don't have a clue what the more careful Catholics think they're doing when they do any of those things. Being Catholic doesn't help. Most Catholics I've known don't know what Catholics believe any better than Protestants do (which means they're not very good Catholics, but that's how these things go).

I do have to say that I wouldn't recommend anything by Dave Hunt. He's rude, not very careful
in his thinking, and extremely unfair to those he thinks he's debating with. The truth is that he usually isn't debating with the people he thinks he's debating. He attacks things that aren't his opponents, and then he doesn't listen when they try to explain that what he's saying isn't even about them.

I will also say this about your last assertion. There's clearly a sense in which Catholics are Christians. The word 'Christian' is used in many ways, and you would do best to try to claim it for one use and one use alone, despite the fact that meaning is determined by use, as any linguist will tell you.

If you want to get a more restricted sense, I agree that there's an issue, but once that issue gets clear I can't see how you can assume that every single Catholic is in the same position. I have irrefutable evidence that there are evangelical Catholics who believe exactly the same Reformed gospel I believe.

Interesting post, Jeremy. A few comments: 1) I think Trent has to be read synergistically because of the repeated claim made that grace can be resisted: Decree on Justification, Chapter 5 and Canon 4. If you have some way to read those monergistically, then I'm interested in seeing it. (I am, BTW, arguing with a RC-convert-in-progress right now over this very issue--he wants to view RC doctrine as monergistic).

2) I'm a little concerned about your "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell, they taught it at Trent but they're beyond that, now. Your point's well taken that if today's Roman Catholics are no longer holding to Trent, then we should look to what they actually do hold before calling them heretics. But aren't Trent, other councils, and papal statements still kind of important when passing a judgment one way or the other on the official Catholic teaching? It would also be exceedingly relevant in many other apologetical contexts (i.e. the Roman Church is not the true church because it has erred, etc. etc.)--but of course that is not this context.

3) I'm concerned you've sold the Galatian heresy a bit short. Seems the Galatian heresy is much more like this: The Judaizers thought that they (or perhaps just the Gentile believers) were initially numbered among God's people through faith, but that works of the law were also necessary for their full justification and salvation. Thus Paul says "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" and "now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?" So it's not so much that the Galatian Judaizers thought they got into the covenant by works, but rather that they got into the covenant by faith but had to, in order to be justified, contribute good works. Now, with Galatians read this way, and with the Roman Catholic church requiring works as part of future justification (those works are meritorious!), and with the Roman Catholic church teaching synergism not monergism, it seems to me that the Roman teaching looks extremely similar to the Galatian Judaizer's teaching. The primary difference is that the Galatian Judaizers taught adherance to the works of the law, while the Roman Catholics will teach adherance to the works of faith.

But, you're much more educated on this than I am so I'm interested in your thoughts.

Keith--I don't think monergism vs. synergism is the same debate as compatibilism vs. libertarianism. It depends a lot on how you define libertarianism, though. But the first should be a theological/metaphysical thesis about how our will relates to God's will. The second is an action theory/metaphysics thesis about how our will actually works. I think a view similar to (identical to?) Hugh McCann's holds good promise of being both libertarian and monergistic. At least, I hope so.

And whatever you do, don't pick up a book by that Dave Hunt. After seeing "What Love is This?" I can't even imagine what he would write on Roman Catholicism.

David, those verses are written not to the Galatian heretics but to the Galatians themselves. Paul had witnessed their conversion and was asking them if it was all for nought. The heretics themselves were saying that the covenant is only initiated with circumcision. If the Galatians themselves believed as you were saying, then it would still be a false teaching, but the heretics who were telling them all this seemed to me to believe it as foundational, as if the Galatian Gentiles simply weren't in the covenant at all without circumcision. Paul was telling these who had seemed to be believers the things that you're saying, but that's because they had seemed to be believers. I'm not sure how that changes what the heretics were teaching them.

In defence of Jeremy I just have to say that he does not need to write another post to make his position clearer. He is very clear and what he claims is nothing new. People with greater cultural baggage have already said that, among them Exegetes, Theologians and Philosophers. The only thing is that Jeremy speaks from the point of view a participant church goer affiliated to a Reformed Congregation.

About the fact that both Anglicans and Catholics have branches that are Reformed or Pentecostal: this is also a platitude. Charismatic Renewal is very Pentecostal and have practices and a structural organisation that is just like any Reformed Church. The members of Charismatic Renewal are encouraged to give one tenth of their earnings to the Church and, although many celibate Priests participate in the movement, their leaders are mostly married Deacons and Eurcaristic Ministers of both sexes and even lay Preachers. Some groups within Charismatic Renewal together others of Liberation Theology have great opposition to idolatry and to the use of imagery, and defend forms of service that be simple and avoid mystification.

That is not surprising. After all, the Roman Catholic Church has even accepted Nestorian Churches from the East to become branches thereof. Catholics are group of diverse Christian sects that simply share the same roof and the same Pope.

David:
Yes, I was saying that I don't think the monergism/synergism debate is the same as compatibilism/libertarianism. It was actually part of my point that I don't think they are the same issue. I also think there could be a libertarian monergist. I was actually talking to one of my profs about it after my phil. of religion reading seminar. I thought it was possible and he seemed to have more questions about it.

I also have been making a similar point on the Galatian heresy. I have been saying that if the Catholic position is synergistic, then it would be in the same category as the Galatian heresy and that it was a valid comparison. If it is monergistic, then it would be different than the Galatian heresy, but not fully Pauline either.

NT backgrounds is not my strongest point, but it does seem to me that on a synergistic Catholic reading there is similarity with the Galatian heresy. It does seem that Paul was worried about the Galatian congregation adding something to Christ.

Consider:
Gal. 2:17 "But if, while seeking to be justified by Christ..."
Gal. 5:5 "For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith."

Along with the verses cited by David, it seems to me that Paul is worried that the Galatians will not persevere totally hoping in Christ to the end. In Gal. 5:5 it seems that they must persevere in hope of the resurrection. For Paul to see anything added on to this pure persevering in hope in Christ alone would be part of the Galatian heresy. It is not merely about getting in wholly dependant on Christ, but about persevering in that hope til the end. The dichotomy of getting in and staying in is not so strict. Adding anything to getting in or staying in would both be the Galatian heresy.

Plus, Gathercole's study on Rom. 1-5 really shows that first century Judaism had a major concern about what it takes to make it through the final judgment and there was a major emphasis on works, which would clearly for them be works related to the law.

But again it is the whole issue of Catholicism and monergism vs. synergism, but Catholic theology is not my area.

For Paul to see anything added on to this pure persevering in hope in Christ alone would be part of the Galatian heresy. It is not merely about getting in wholly dependant on Christ, but about persevering in that hope til the end. The dichotomy of getting in and staying in is not so strict. Adding anything to getting in or staying in would both be the Galatian heresy.

So you're saying that a pure Arminianism with genuine possibility of loss of salvation commits the Galatian heresy? I can't believe that. I do think there are logical implications of that Arminian view, and I do think they lead to a denial of the gospel if their conclusions are traced out, but 99% of the people who hold that view don't trace them out and indeed deny that they have that consequence. Therefore they don't end up denying the gospel. So once again I'm losing grip on how adding to staying in requires denying the gospel. It doesn't for that Arminian view. Must it for the others?

Jeremy--the difference between the Arminian and the Catholic (On this issue, anyway), is that the Arminian doesn't think what he's doing contributes to the the merit upon which he is justified. The Roman Catholic does. Hence, while the view of freedom and the will that the Arminian holds has logical implications that deny the Gospel (as you say), they don't follow those out. They don't make the connection. Roman Catholics, it seems to me, do.

Perhaps you could say more, exegetically, on why you restrict the Galatian Heresy to your narrower interpretation as opposed to our broader one--that seems to be the nub of our disagreement.

And I still want to see Trent read Monergistically :)

Keith--yeah looks like we agree on the synergism/monergism and libertarian/compatibilism stuff. I think the real tough part comes in defining libertarianism. And, as I said above, I think Hugh McCann's a good a place as any to start this sort of thinking--along with Aquinas.

Without Judeification there is no Galatian heresy strictu sensu. Any Church who wants Christianism to be Jewish falls into such kind of thought. But by disagreeing from mere and failable mortals like Luther or like me or yourselves, no Church is falling into heresy.

The theme of the dichotomy between works and faith, which is not restricted to only one writting by Paul, exists as a puzzle only for those who want to see a Cartesian thought behind the Gospel, and want to relate things temporally or spatially.

The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, does not use discrete categories to explain Christianism. Rather, he uses treats each dichotomy as a continuum, as anyone can see in any of his many examples. In each continuam the parts must mirror each other as a token of what he deems perfection.

Folks, you have to read the Epistle again and pay attention. And, most importantly, take into consideration that the Apostles, Luke excepted, belonged to a non-Western culture.

Jeremy, I roughly agree that David is on the right track as to why Arminianism is different than Catholicism.

The Arminians have a Reformation view of justification combined with synergism. The Catholic view seems to not have a Reformation view of justification combined with synergism (although I realize you guys are still discussing the synergism issue). For me, the Arminian view is unstable since on the one hand at the beginning of salvation it looks totally to Christ for justification and on the other it sort of looks partially to the self to persevere (I say partially because of course they believe that God strengthens them in some manner). Yet because it does look to Christ for justification totally on the merits of Christ's work, many Arminians are totally looking to Christ. There is nothing in place comparable to the Reformed view of justification to keep Catholics focused outwards. It always has to be inward and combined with a synergistic view of works it is a lethal combination. It is the combination that is killer.

For me it is like the common evangelical who believes in eternal security and just ignores warning passages. Their theology is so set that they just overlook the warnings. Thus, I think for an Arminian they can get so focused on justification by faith that they do end up trusting wholly in Christ throughout their life.

In summary, it is the combined aspect of a non Reformational view of justification and a synergistic view of works that makes Catholicism lethal and worthy of being compared to the Galatian heresy. Now, of course it isn't identical, but if it is synergistic then it should be in the same category.

Put another way, the Arminians believe that the justification given at the beginning of salvation will be what justifies them on the last day. An Arminian doesn't believe that their faith justifies them on the last day, but rather the justification found in Christ. The Catholic believes that it is the infused righteousness which is syngergistic that gets the verdict in the last day. For the Arminian as well as the Calvinist, the verdict of justification rendered in Christ is the eschatological verdict brought forward and so thus we stand on the last day wholly on the basis of the work of Christ. This tends to be muted in Catholic thought where infused righteousness takes center stage, which would be less of a problem monergistically but a huge issue synergistically. Sorry for being redundant. I am hoping that one of my repetitions will communicate.

Keith:
"It is not merely about getting in wholly dependant on Christ, but about persevering in that hope til the end."

Actually, I think almost all branches of Arminians would roughly agree just with what I said. Arminians persevere in the hope of righteousness found in Christ.

Leave a comment

Contact

    The Parablemen are: , , and .

Archives

Archives

Books I'm Reading

Fiction I've Finished Recently

Non-Fiction I've Finished Recently

Books I've Been Referring To

I've Been Listening To

Games I've Been Playing

Other Stuff

    jolly_good_blogger

    thinking blogger
    thinking blogger

    Dr. Seuss Pro

    Search or read the Bible


    Example: John 1 or love one another (ESV)





  • Link Policy
Powered by Movable Type 5.04