Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Response to Steve Ray on Sola Fide

On today's program, I interacted with a lecture by Roman Catholic apologist Steve Ray in which he argued against the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I demonstrated that this idea is clearly taught in Romans,and also discussed James 2.


38 comments:

Bruce Zittlow said...

When confronted with the Steve Ray argument about justification by works in James, my usual response designed to shut up the opposition is to ask if they want us to follow Abraham in sacrificing our children. Or maybe we are to betray our country as Rahab did by lying. Is that what they consider to be good works? They don't have an answer to those questions because they have never actually thought about these bible verses.

Joe said...

Hi Jordan.

Thanks for your ministry.

I appreciated your comments concerning Abraham before justified 7 chapters before offering his son (James 2)...but I was wondering if you consider Abraham formally justified before Gen 15 at all?

Thanks.

in Him,

-Joe

Jordan Cooper said...

Yes, I think Abraham was justified in Romans 12. I don't think we have to see justification as something punctiliar. It's something that extends throughout the Christians life, as a verdict that is continually granted as one's sins are continually forgiven.

Joe said...

Okay, I assume you meant Genesis 12, not Romans 12.

In terms of justification being punctiliar...I understand that just like repentance is a lifelong attribute of the Christian life, justification can be thought of in this manner....but I guess I have typically viewed the new life as having a beginning,ie. an initial justification in space and time.

In Him,

Joe

Jordan Cooper said...

Yes, sorry it's been a long day. I meant Genesis 12.

Nick said...

Jordan,

I listened to this episode with eagerness. Here are my thoughts on some comments you made. I'll put a star* at the numbered comments I think are especially important.

(1) You began by saying that Paul is focused on the Gentiles in Romans 1 and the Jews in Romans 2. That's not something supported by the text. Rather, Paul is speaking of all men in Romans 1:18-2:16. Then in 2:17ff Paul is talking about *certain* Jews who were being arrogant. They "boasted" of being better than the Gentiles because they had the Law (2:17,23, the same 'boast' word used in 3:27). This is a flawed foundation to build upon. Note that in Romans 1:23 Paul is strongly alluding to if not directly quoting Psalm 106:19-20 where it says the *Jews* “exchanged the Glory of God for animals,” namely the idol image of the golden calf!

(2) In 16:15 you somewhat "equivocated" with the term Law when discussing Romans 3, saying it must be that which is on our nature and that which is revealed in the Torah. If you do a study of the term "Law" in the New Testament, you will see it clearly and almost exclusively refers to the Torah. In fact, in Galatians 3:15 Paul says that the Law doesn't justify because "the Law came 430 years after Abraham." That's Paul's argument. That argument would mean nothing if "Law" meant 'law in general'. Rather, it can only mean "Torah," or more specifically the 613 Commands (Mitzvot) of the Torah. It's dangerous to play fast and loose with Biblical terms, especially "Nomos" (Law).

(3) In 21:30 you said James and Paul are dealing with different contexts, and yet right in the heart of both presentations Paul and James both quote the quintessential text on soteric justification, Genesis 15:6. What you end up with is James saying 'justified before men' in v21, then 'justified before God' in v23, then 'justified before men' again in v24. Did James really just flip flop like that? I doubt it. That's context and it's crucial here, otherwise James had no reason to mention Genesis 15:6.

(4*) In 24:40, still talking on James 2, you said good works automatically flow from faith. But that's not accurate. I've not found a single passage, much less a consensus of texts, that say good works automatically flow from (true) faith. So that's a massive assumption you've imported, and I don't think that's fair. In fact, numerous texts contradict that (common) Protestant claim that good works automatically flow. For example, James spends most of his Epistle yelling at Christians (true believers, 2:1) who were not doing good works, who had turned to sin. Even Lutheran's believe a person can backslide, even lose salvation. Plus, James gave the worst example possible for your thesis by quoting Genesis 22, because (a) the sacrifice of Isaac was many *years* after Genesis 15:6, meaning it's not about good works *automatically* flowing, and more problematic is (b) which you commented on in 27:40, is the fact Genesis 22:9-12 makes it very clear Abraham was NOT doing good works "before men," but rather for God *alone*.

(5) In 24:55 you said a faith that doesn't automatically produce good works "doesn't exist," but how do you square this with James' body/soul analogy in verse 2:26? You'd no longer be saying that the body is dead, but rather you'd be saying the body doesn't exist. Big difference.

(6) In 27:00 you made an interesting admission, saying Lutherans define faith in one way and Catholics in another. But if "faith" can mean different things, which it can, then even saying "faith alone" isn't very helpful, for there can be heretical notions of "faith alone" as well as orthodox ones. And to highlight this problem even more, most Protestants would not agree with the Lutheran view of faith, particularly the notion that baptism is

Nick said...

(2 of 3)
part of faith and does not 'add to faith'. So really the Lutheran position is in a serious bind in this matter, for if they allow baptism doesn't 'add to faith', then they've opened the door for Catholics to say this or that good work doesn't *automatically* 'add to faith'. Really, Rom 3:28 is interpreted by Lutherans to mean "justified by faith and baptism and not by works of the Law." See the "problem" here?

(7*) You didn't treat the fact that "justified by works and not by faith alone" in James 2:24 isn't even an accurate translation. Rather, the term "alone" here is an *adverb* while 'faith' here is a *noun*. Adverbs modify *verbs*, so James isn't speaking of "faith alone" at all. Rather, the *verb* being modified by 'only' here is 'justify'! So what James is really saying is: "A man is justified by works and not only [justified] by faith," or better yet: "A man is not only justified by faith, but also by works." Do you see what happened here? The verse takes on a whole new meaning. Properly translated, it says faith in this verse *does* justify, where as you say the faith here does not justify.

(8) In 34:10 you made another interesting admission. Augustine and other Church Fathers already admitted "the Law" isn't merely the ceremonial law...and yet they didn't believe in Sola Fide. This is fascinating, to say the least. It means that even interpreting "the Law" as more broad than 'ceremonial law' still doesn't lead one to Sola Fide. I really hope it's a red flag to people to suggest that the Early Church Fathers were 'too stupid' to read Paul properly. That's not what you said explicitly, but it's very much implied. It's not something to take lightly. In 48:15 you said the Reformation understanding is the most clear, as if no Church Father 'got it' until Luther. Why do you not find and cite a consistent and plain 'faith alone' tradition among Christians prior to Luther? There should be a blatantly obvious even explicit tradition of 'faith alone' theology prior to Luther.

(9) I don't mind saying "the Law" was more than the ceremonial. In fact, it certainly is more than that. It was the 613 moral and ceremonial commands of the Torah, especially the Ten Commandments. But that doesn't prove 'faith alone' by any means. For example, Baptism is NOT one of those 613 commandments.

(10) In 41:20 you admit Abraham was a good example because the Law didn't exist yet. If the issue is 'works in general' then Paul should have backed up to Noah. There's no logical reason to pick Abraham if Paul says things like 'before circumcision' (Gen 17) and 'the law came 430 years later' (Gal 3:15) if the issue is 'works in general', because Abraham was doing 'works in general' from Genesis 12 up through Genesis 17. The only thesis that even makes sense is whether or not Abraham was a "Jew," and if he was, did he become a Jew before or after the Messianic Gospel promise of Genesis 12:1-4.

(11) In 42:00 you say we cannot take one part of Paul's argument and ignore the rest and we cannot read verses out of context, but then 30 seconds later you say "Paul only says works" in Romans 4:2, as if that proves it's 'works in general' all of the sudden. Clearly, the context is 'works of the Law', starting at least in Romans 3 and going into at least the middle of Romans 4. You cannot jump to Rom 4:2, say “only works are mentioned” so everything else must simply be 'works' also. You cannot rule out that 'works' and 'works of the law' mean the same thing, even if 'works of the law' means 'good works in general' (which is a weak claim given that circumcision is Paul's favorite example of a work).

Nick said...

(3 of 3)

(12) The point of Rom 4:4 isn't between condign and congruous merit, but rather the distinction between a temporal blessing and super-natural blessing. Paul is not discounting working for payment. The issue isn't about "earning salvation" otherwise texts like Genesis 26:4-5 would be rank heresy. The issue is whether the Mosaic Law promised eternal life, and Paul says it did not. Paul says you can do the works of the Mosaic Law (Torah) and you will receive payment in the form of temporal blessings like health & wealth, which is why Paul says you CAN boast in Rom 4:2...BUT Paul is saying there is a better ‘transcendental’ deal out there. The Gospel promise offers the transcendental gift of ‘eternal life’, and this promise existed 430 years before the Mosaic Law was ever given. Jews conflated the Mosaic Promises with the Abrahamic Promises. THAT'S the key. That's what Galatians 3:15-18 is saying. THAT'S what the forgotten Romans 4:13-16 is saying.

(13*) In 45:50 & 56:00 you talk about how Abraham already believed in Genesis 12 but in 46:20 you suggest Abraham wasn't actually saved until Genesis 15. As if Abraham was a *super rotten ungodly sinner* from Genesis 12-14? That's a very dubious and even blasphemous thesis. The texts are clear that Abraham faithfully obeyed in Genesis 12, as Hebrews 11 says. Abraham heard the Gospel in Genesis 12, as Galatians 3:8 says. Abraham built altars in response to the Promise (Gen 13:18). In Genesis 14:19, God's Priest Melchizedek blessed Abraham saying "Blessed be Abraham by God most High." In Genesis 15:1, God says to Abraham "I am your shield." Now if you tradition is going to say Abraham was UNGODLY throughout all this, you should seriously stop and think whether your tradition might, just maybe, have misunderstood something significant. The truth is, the term "ungodly" as used by Paul in this context means "outside the Mosaic covenant," basically a Gentile. Abraham was "ungodly" in so far as he was 'apart from the Law', Abraham was justified AS A GENTILE. That's Paul's whole point. That's why in Romans 4 Paul is so fixated on Abraham being justified "before being circumcised." That argument is not only elegant, but it would piss off the Judaizers like no other.

(14*) In 46:50 you talk on the David quote and how this has nothing to do with Gentiles and Jews being justified apart from the Law. Again, context. In 47:47 you say Paul 'returns' to the issue of circumcision, as if Paul shifted topics in Rom 4:1-8 and then shifted back suddenly, but that's a perfect example of not following context! In this case, David is talking about a grave sin, the murder of Bathsheba and Uriah. What are the consequences of these crimes? Those sins cannot be atoned for under the Mosaic Law, as Romans 2:25 explains "If a Jew sins [gravely], his circumcision becomes UNCIRCUMCISION." This means grave sin kicks you out of the Mosaic Covenant and makes you...a *Gentile*! So the lesson of David in Paul here is that it wasn't the Mosaic Law that forgave David, but a higher realm, the Gospel realm. David couldn't "work" the Law here because the Law couldn't forgive a murderer, his “wages” were excommunication from the Mosaic Covenant. Again, what a slap in the face to the Judaizers who thought "David is our man".

(15) You seem to completely miss why Paul says "our forefather according to the flesh." It's because the Jews saw biological lineage from Abraham as a special election, which it was, but they mistook this for God showing favor based on Race. The Judaizers were racist against the Gentiles, considering them second class ghetto trash. This is explicit even from John the Baptist (Matthew 3:9)

J. Dean said...

Nick:
(2) "In 16:15 you somewhat "equivocated" with the term Law when discussing Romans 3, saying it must be that which is on our nature and that which is revealed in the Torah. If you do a study of the term "Law" in the New Testament, you will see it clearly and almost exclusively refers to the Torah. In fact, in Galatians 3:15 Paul says that the Law doesn't justify because "the Law came 430 years after Abraham." That's Paul's argument. That argument would mean nothing if "Law" meant 'law in general'. Rather, it can only mean "Torah," or more specifically the 613 Commands (Mitzvot) of the Torah. It's dangerous to play fast and loose with Biblical terms, especially "Nomos" (Law)."

Jordan's point is valid, because Paul himself makes this point in Romans 2:14-15. Paul puts the natural law of the Gentiles on the same level as the Jewish Torah to the extent that the righteousness understood by Gentiles is not perfectly kept by the Gentiles.

J. Dean said...

Nick: "You didn't treat the fact that "justified by works and not by faith alone" in James 2:24 isn't even an accurate translation. Rather, the term "alone" here is an *adverb* while 'faith' here is a *noun*. Adverbs modify *verbs*, so James isn't speaking of "faith alone" at all. Rather, the *verb* being modified by 'only' here is 'justify'! So what James is really saying is: "A man is justified by works and not only [justified] by faith," or better yet: "A man is not only justified by faith, but also by works." Do you see what happened here? The verse takes on a whole new meaning. Properly translated, it says faith in this verse *does* justify, where as you say the faith here does not justify. "

If we're gonna play contextual "gotcha" games, then two can play this game. You are (whether intentionally or deliberately) ignoring verse 14, which is the crux and starting point of James' argument: "What good does it do, my brothers, if a man SAYS he has faith but does not have works?"

Notice what James is dealing with. He is dealing with a person who professes to have saving faith, not somebody who actually has it. Otherwise, he would not say "if somebody SAYS he has faith." James is dealing with somebody who ultimately does not have saving faith, period. Note verse 19, which James is condemning. It's deism, not Christianity, and in light of the fact that Christians were monotheists in a polytheistic culture, that's a significant point to consider.

Furthermore, you, like many other Catholics, are setting up a false dichotomy that no Lutheran (or level headed confessional evangelical for that matter) embraces. No orthodox Lutheran or Reformed person denies that true faith will produce good works. What they teach is that good works are not the basis for salvation, not even a partial basis, just like the Church affirmed over and against Pelagius in the Councils of Ephesus and Carthage (which also condemned Semi-pelagianism as well, which is what Rome inevitably teaches).

Finally, it is you and other Romanists in the end who are guilty of setting Scripture up and against itself. You condemn Lutherans and Protestants because you think they ignore James 2, but you do the VERY SAME thing with passages such as Romans 3:21-28 (and by the way, the "law" Paul talks about includes the moral law/Ten Commandments: see Romans 7), Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8-9 (Yes, I am aware of what verse 10 says, but that doesn't nullify the preceding verses), Titus 3:5, II Timothy 1:9, Galatians 3:10. All of this speaks directly against seeking salvation through works, or against mixing works with faith in Christ (see Galatians)-whether those works are the law, mercy and charity, or the multitude of Romanist traditions wrongfully set up as equal to Scripture (indugences, praying to saints, penance, etc).

Jordan, it's funny because the more I hear Roman arguments for their position, the more I'm convinced of the Lutheran position. Keep up the good work!

Nick said...

J.Dean,
I want to keep my response to your two posts directed at me brief since I also am interested in what Jordan has to say (especially the stared numbers).

You said: "Paul puts the natural law of the Gentiles on the same level as the Jewish Torah to the extent that the righteousness understood by Gentiles is not perfectly kept by the Gentiles."

The term "Law" (nomos) is used almost 200 times in the NT and is plainly speaking of the Torah in the vast majority of cases. There aren’t any clear examples of Nomos referring to some universal law. Speaking of Rom 2:14-15 specifically, Paul's point here is *not* that the Gentiles cannot perfectly keep the Law (in fact, not keeping the law perfectly isn't really ever a concern of Paul), especially given his point in Rom 2:5-13. This texts says the Gentiles "don't have the Law" making it clear "the Law" here is the Torah and thus further supporting the notion that "apart from [the 613] works of the Torah" should be how texts like Rm 3:28 are read. Paul is clear that only Jews are ‘under the Law’ and warns Christians not to go ‘under the Law’. Now if Christians are already ‘under the Law’, then it makes no sense to warn against circumcision and such. Another possibility is this text is talking about Christian Gentiles who have the the Law written on their heart by the Spirit.

You said: "If we're gonna play contextual "gotcha" games, then two can play this game."

I'm not playing any gotcha games, and even if I was, your response is a textbook logical fallacy. You didn't address the actual substance of the argument I made, you simply dodged it and shifted focus to another question.

You said: "[James] is dealing with a person who professes to have saving faith, not somebody who actually has it."

This isn't sound exegesis. James is not asking "Can an empty claim save him?" Or worse yet, "Can a dead non-saving faith save him?" The word "says" is a generic Greek word for 'to say' or 'to make a claim'. If I "say" I am a Catholic, that doesn't mean you interpret it as "Nick ONLY SAID he is a Catholic, but in reality Nick is not Catholic." James knows his audience has saving faith (e.g. 2:1), his Epistle is directed at Christians who've fallen into sinful lifestyles. This typical Protestant argument of yours is founded upon the unbiblical doctrine that 'good works automatically flow from true faith', which I addressed in my comment #4 earlier.

You said: "No orthodox Lutheran or Reformed person denies that true faith will produce good works."

I never said otherwise. I said it was *unbiblical* to say true faith automatically produces good works. Saying "works automatically flow" is a naked tradition of men.

You said: "You condemn Lutherans and Protestants because you think they ignore James 2, but you do the VERY SAME thing with passages such as Romans 3:21-28...Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8-9...Titus 3:5, II Timothy 1:9, Galatians 3:10."

That's simply not true. I've addressed all those texts on my blog and shown how they conform 100% with Catholicism and how they contradict Protestantism. Notice how you ignored all my original comments touching upon Romans 3-4 and Galatians 3.
You said: "Jordan, it's funny because the more I hear Roman arguments for their position, the more I'm convinced of the Lutheran position."

Sorry buddy, but you should be embarrassed for saying that. You didn't address anything I actually said and instead went off on your own tangent, including badly distorting things I never said. I know that we make mistakes when saying things online, so take this as a learning experience.

Bruce Zittlow said...

Nick, is it an obsessive compulsive disorder, or something else?

Jesse said...

Bruce Zittlow,
There's no reason to start questioning whether someone has a disorder and that kind of comment definitely has no place in theological conversation regardless of who it is directed to. Nick has brought up some interesting questions that I would like to see a response to.

Jordan,
I have been wondering for a while whether or not this entire debate is, to one degree or another, dependent on the definition of faith and would like to hear your thoughts.

Lutherans define faith as "saving faith" or a faith in which works will automatically flow. Even though the works are not the thing doing the saving, works are very much bound up with faith to the extent that it is almost impossible to speak of bare faith because works always accompany that faith. Catholics seem to define faith as assent which may or may not save depending on if that person has works that complete that faith.

It seems that regardless of the view, on a practical level, for salvation to occur one must have faith and works must be present. This makes me wonder whether Lutherans and Catholics would be in agreement if a Lutheran changed their definition of faith to assent (or a Catholic changed their definition of faith to "saving faith").

On a related topic, how would a Lutheran deal with texts like Matt 6:4 in which God seems to be rewarding someone on the basis of what the person did? Is this not some form of merit?

Thanks!

Joe said...

Hi Nick.

Before I comment on your remarks...I am curious if your interpretations of Romans and other passages is the official one taught by Rome or is this your particular interpretation?

Jordan referenced toward the beginning of podcast that there are different interpretations by different Roman apologists...so just curious if your remarks here are the true Roman version, or if other apologists/teachers/etc of Rome would disagree with your thoughts here.

Thanks!

In Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Hi Jesse.

I am not Jordan, but Jordan does discuss the Reformation definition of saving faith that would include an assent and trust. I am not Roman, but it would seem that faith to them could be a simple assent.

In terms of it being "impossible to speak of bare faith because works always accompanies that faith", I would disagree. Faith is used many different ways in scripture...and James uses it exactly in this sense. It is a faith that demons have. Which is why this faith, the one that James speaks of...is different than the faith that is found say in Romans...where it alone justifies and is not at all what demons possess.

I would agree, in the ordinary sense (exceptions would be thief on cross or those say on death bed), that practically, faith and works are involved in salvation in both the Roman and Lutheran paradigm.

However, I do not see the two sides agreeing (though have heard some Roman friends who teach new member classes say that the differences are just semantics - and the last Pope agreeing in some sense that it is by faith alone)...because each side assigns a different efficacy to these works.

For Rome one merits eternal life through their works. For Lutherans, these works do not merit or earn eternal life, they are fruits and evidence of a saving faith.

Concerning Matt 6:4, though I have been recently convinced of Lutheran theology via Jordan, and hence may be wrong..I do not see anything contradicting Lutheran thought with God rewarding someone on the basis of what the person did. Why would that be an issue?

In Him,

Joe

Jordan Cooper said...

Nick, I don't have the time to respond to all of your comments, but here are some brief retorts.

1. Paul comes to the conclusion that: "What then, are we Jews any better off? No not at all, for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin." (Rom. 3:9). Clearly, Paul is intending to speak to all Jews, not simply about certain Jews. The whole point he is driving at is that "every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world be held accountable to God." (Rom. 3:19)

2. The word TORAH is used in a variety of ways in Paul, even at times within the same sentence. All Romans commentators acknowledge this.

3. James uses the text to discuss the good work of Gen. 22 as a vindication of the righteousness of faith in chapter 15. There is no reason to assume that Paul wasn't truly justified until 7 chapters after he was already counted as righteous.

4. Look at the passages where Jesus speaks of a good tree necessarily bearing good fruit. A tree by nature has fruit, not because it has to work at it.

5. Read Scaer'r work on this text.

6. You don't understand a Lutheran view of Baptism. It is not "part of faith," but is a means by which faith is granted and strengthened. It is not some kind of work that exists alongside of faith, but delivers the promise that faith clings to.

7. As I said, the word "justify" can be used in different senses. The Biblical writers were not dealing with a fully formed systematic theology.

8. Sola Fide is taught in several of the fathers. I have published a book on Patristic soteriology if you would like to read on this subject.

9. Baptism is not a work.

10. Paul speaks of both good works in general (as is obvious in Eph. 2:8, Titus 3:5, etc.) and specifically Jewish commandments.

11. Paul's point is that Torah cannot save because it is exclusively Jewish in some sense, and it promotes righteousness based on works. So yes, Paul does discuss works in general in Rom. 4:5

12. You didn't even respond to the argument. There is nothing about "supernatural and temporal blessings" in this text.

13. You entirely missed my point. Abraham was justified in Rom. 12.

Jordan Cooper said...

Jesse,

Faith and works are certainly important for both Roman Catholic and Lutheran theology. However, I don't think we can simply look at the difference as purely semantic. For the Lutheran, faith saves because it grasps Christ and receives his benefits. Works then flow from that faith. For the Roman Catholic, faith and works merit grace, and consequently eternal life. Both faith and works have fundamentally different roles in each system.

Regarding your other question, Lutherans have no problem seeing heavenly rewards given for works done in faith.

Jesse said...

Hi Joe and Jordan,

I would agree that the word faith is used differently in Scripture (like the example you gave in James). I'm more talking about how Lutherans define true saving faith systematically. If faith is merely defined as assent, then Lutherans would not say that everyone who merely agrees with Christian doctrine would be saved (for example, it is very doubtful that an unrepentant murderer who says he believes in Jesus is saved). So what kind of faith is a saving faith? A faith that would lead to works. That is why I said it seems that in the Lutheran paradigm that it is almost impossible to separate faith from works ("Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God's will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God." (Augsburg Confession Article VI)). That is also why I said that it seems that both Catholics and Lutherans would agree on a practical level that a saved person must have faith and works (I'm not defining good works as only extraordinary works, but any good work including prayer, love, contrition, or repentance).

I do understand that Lutherans differ from Catholics in how they understand the role of good works in salvation, but it seems that on the issue of salvation, Lutherans and Catholics have a lot in common. For example, they both say faith is necessary and it is a gift of God (see paragraph 153 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)). Both say good works are necessary (for different reasons) and are gifts of God (see paragraph 2008 of the CCC).

To me it seems like Lutheran theology has an issue with the language of "merit" (this is why I was wondering about the Matt 6 passage). Even though faith is a gift of God, it is not God who believes, but people who are believing and this belief results in salvation. In this sense, salvation is both a gift (because God is freely giving it on the basis of the faith that he gave) and a merit (because God is granting salvation on the condition of faith which is being done by people).

It has already been admitted that good works (which are also God's gift) can be rewarded or given merit. If good works also have their source in justification, are part of sanctification, help lead people closer to God, and the cessation of doing good works (or starting to practice evil works) leads us farther away from God and keeps us from the Kingdom, then I think it is possible to say that our good works are an integral part of salvation and aid in its attainment (see Gal 6:7-10 and Augustine's "On Grace and Free Will", Chapter 19).

One thing I have often run into with Lutheran theology that I find problematic is its tendancy to take its understanding of certain passages, like Romans 3 and 4 and Galatians 2, and use that understanding to harmonize/override other passages that seem to say something contrary. I understand that Lutherans strive to interpret unclear passages with clear passages but sometimes neither passage seems unclear. They only seem unclear when placed besides each other. To me it seems that James 2 falls into this category. Another passage that seems to fall into this category is Luke 7:47. Even though Jesus says 3 verses later that the woman's faith saved her, in verse 47 he explicitly says that her sins are forgiven "for (hoti) she loved much." In this verse, her forgiveness is attributed to her love, which Lutheran theology says is a work, except I have heard Lutherans essentially dismiss this verse out of hand saying Jesus didn't mean that her love saved her. Why can't she be forgiven because of her love (v47) and her faith (v50)?

Sorry for the lengthy response.

Anonymous said...

Jordan wrote - ". You don't understand a Lutheran view of Baptism. It is not "part of faith," but is a means by which faith is granted and strengthened. It is not some kind of work that exists alongside of faith, but delivers the promise that faith clings to."

Where does it say in scripture that God grants faith through baptism? Yes baptism is referred to the lather of regernertaion but not everyone who is baptized is regenerate as we have numerous examples in scripture. According to the Lutheran confessions in the case of an infant, the faith is presupposed and the child is baptized based on its own presupped faith. this idea that in baptism God grants faith to an infant in foreign to the lutheran confessions and scripture.

Jordan Cooper said...

The idea that God grants faith through Baptism is one that is found consistently throughout the Lutheran tradition.

Anonymous said...

but the idea that faith is granted to every infant being baptized is not necessarily a confessional nor scriptural position ...

The Lutheran confessions seem to in one sense suggest this notion, for instance in Luthers large catechism he wrote –
“The Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ, as is proved well enough from His own work. For God sanctifies many of those who have been baptized as infants and has given them the Holy Spirit” (notice Luther says that God sanctified “many” of those who have been baptized as infants not “all”)
Also Luther writes – “So we do likewise in infant baptism. We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith. But we do not baptize it for that reason, but solely because of Gods command” (it appears that from this section of the catechism Luther is not teaching that in baptism faith is granted, but, rather that it is presupposed that the child has already been given faith by God prior to baptism. Also it is interesting to note that Luther said that “we pray that God may grant it faith” so it is a conviction that the child has already been given faith and a hope that if it has not already received faith prior to baptism that God would grant it to the child now)

So, from my observations from the Lutheran confessions, not every child is necessarily has faith at the time of baptism and therefore, just like adults who are baptized without faith, are not regenerated, even though baptism is describe as the “bath of regeneration”

Anonymous said...

5That Lutheran baptism assumes faith in the infant being baptized can be seen in the Lutheran baptismal liturgy. Before the child is baptized they are asked: (the parents are asked these questions ON BEHALF of the child)it is assumed/presupposed that the child already has faith..

“N., do you renounce the devil?”

Answer: “Yes.”

“And all his works?”

Answer: “Yes.”

“And all his ways?”

Answer: “Yes.”

Then he shall ask:

“Do you believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?”

Answer: “Yes.”

“Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was born and suffered?”

Answer: “Yes.”

“Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Christian church, the community of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and after death an eternal life?”

Answer: “Yes.”

“Do you want to be baptized?”

Answer: “Yes.”

This liturgy is taken from Luther's baptismal book, published in 1523 and republished in 1526 (on which this text is taken). This translation is taken for the Book of Concord, ed. Kolb and Wengert (Augsburg Fortress. Minneapolis, MN, 2000. p. 374-375).

Nick said...

Hello Jordan,
I understand you are busy, so I'm not trying to load you up with responding to all kinds of stuff. Briefly, I will respond to your last post to me.

(1) I agree "the whole world" being accountable refers to Jews and Gentiles. But it does not follow that Rom 1 must be talking about Gentiles only and Rom 2 about Jews only.

(2) I agree that the word "Torah" can be used different ways, notably referring to either the Mosaic Covenant or quoting a specific verse from the Torah. But that by no means suggests "Torah" holds a universal meaning that encompasses Jews and Gentiles. It is *crucial* that one properly identifies the meaning of "Law" in Paul.

(3) I think you missed the point here. Genesis 15:6 is talking about soteric justification. If James quotes this right in the very context of talking of himself talking of "justification," then naturally one should assume the same meaning. And as noted either, Genesis 22:9-12 shows Abraham wasn't doing good works "before men," but before God.

(4) The good tree producing good fruit analogy by Jesus cannot be pushed beyond its limits. It merely means the person with the good heart is capable of producing good fruit, and good fruit will show the condition of his heart. This doesn't suggest good works will automatically flow, nor when they will flow, nor even what amount. The plain fact Christians sin shows that good works don't automatically flow. So, again, I would reaffirm no text clearly teaches good works automatically flow, much less a consensus of texts.

(5) I don't have access to Scaer's book, but I never really wanted my post to be mostly about James so I'll not push this.

(6) In fairness, Catholics should be able to put baptism in a similar category which avoids classifying it as a 'work'.

(7) You missed my point here. I wasn't talking about the definition of "justify," but rather the Greek ADVERB "monon" (meaning "alone/only") in James 2:24. Monon couples with a verb, “justify,” so that James is talking about "man is not only justified by faith".

(8) I would be very interested to see your book on Sola Fide in the Fathers. I especially would like to see which one's of them spoke of 'the imputation of Christ's righteousness' and which of them interpreted Gen 15:6 and Rom 4:3 like Protestants do.

(9) I agree that Baptism is not a work, but I think you missed the logic behind my claim: The 'works of the Law' include all 613 commandments (moral and ceremonial) in the Torah, but Baptism isn't one of those 613.

(10) You have by no means made a good argument that Paul speaks of 'works in general'. Such sweeping claims are dangerous and contrary to a robust theology. The very context of Eph 2:8 and Titus 3:5 are of works of the Law (contrasted to “good works” on top of that).

(Post 1 of 2)

Nick said...

(Post 2 of 2)

(11) You said: "Paul's point is that Torah cannot save because it is exclusively Jewish in some sense, and it promotes righteousness based on works. So yes, Paul does discuss works in general in Rom. 4:5"
I agree with the first sentence, but the second sentence is completely non-sequitor. Works and works of the law mean the same thing in this context.

(12) I'm asserting that your paradigm is wrong by failing to distinguish the Mosaic Promise wasn't the same as the Abrahamic Promise.

(13) This point has been confusing to me. You say here that Abraham was justified in ch12, but other points you seem to say he wasn't justified until ch15. The question then is, if Abe was justified in ch12, then what happened years later when Abraham believed in ch15?

(14) You appear to have missed #14 (and #15). When Rom 4:6 says "David speaks of crediting righteousness apart from works," we know 'crediting righteousness' refers to justifying. Also, the Greek phrase in 4:6 for "apart from works" also appears in 3:28 ("justified apart from works of the law"). So it's very obvious that 'justification apart from works of the law' is the point of Rom 4:6, given the context and the same Greek words. Further, Paul identifies 'justifying the ungodly' as 'crediting righteousness apart from works', which means when parsed shows that 'ungodly' is the one 'apart from works', i.e. 'apart from works of the Law', i.e. apart from circumcision. Thus, 'ungodly' refers to an uncircumcised person, a Gentile. I wrote more about this HERE if interested.

AGAIN: This is NOT to load you down with all kinds of responses, so I don't expect you to address everything in major detail. There are some key claims though that I believe are more based on assumption than actual biblical/systematic basis.

Joe said...

Hi Jesse.

You said: That is also why I said that it seems that both Catholics and Lutherans would agree on a practical level that a saved person must have faith and works (I'm not defining good works as only extraordinary works, but any good work including prayer, love, contrition, or repentance).

Me: Agree. Saying that one must have works does not mean that works would merit/earn eternal life.

You said: I do understand that Lutherans differ from Catholics in how they understand the role of good works in salvation, but it seems that on the issue of salvation, Lutherans and Catholics have a lot in common. For example, they both say faith is necessary and it is a gift of God (see paragraph 153 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)). Both say good works are necessary (for different reasons) and are gifts of God (see paragraph 2008 of the CCC).

Me: Sure, Roman and Lutherans have some things in common. I do not think anyone would disagree with that. But obviously they have significant differences, at least confessionally. Again, works for the Roman merit eternal life…where Lutherans would hold to the biblical model of “by grace through faith, not by works, so no one may boast.”

You said: To me it seems like Lutheran theology has an issue with the language of "merit" (this is why I was wondering about the Matt 6 passage). Even though faith is a gift of God, it is not God who believes, but people who are believing and this belief results in salvation. In this sense, salvation is both a gift (because God is freely giving it on the basis of the faith that he gave) and a merit (because God is granting salvation on the condition of faith which is being done by people).

Me: I guess it depends on whose merit you are speaking of. Christ earned/merited eternal life. By faith, we are found in Christ…not with a merit of our own. Our faith is not a righteous act that merits/earns eternal life. Rather it links us to the one who did merit eternal life.

cont...

Joe said...

Hi Jesse.

You said: It has already been admitted that good works (which are also God's gift) can be rewarded or given merit. If good works also have their source in justification, are part of sanctification, help lead people closer to God, and the cessation of doing good works (or starting to practice evil works) leads us farther away from God and keeps us from the Kingdom, then I think it is possible to say that our good works are an integral part of salvation and aid in its attainment (see Gal 6:7-10 and Augustine's "On Grace and Free Will", Chapter 19).

Me: While I may agree that works could be considered and integral part of salvation…because salvation encompasses simply more than one’s initial state of justification…however, I would disagree that works “aid in its attainment” since the scriptures specifically exclude works explicitly from its attainment. We are saved by grace through faith, NOT by works…created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Yes, good works are part of salvation as they are a life long part of the Christian life, and they will come since as new creatures in Christ, we are made to do them.

You said: One thing I have often run into with Lutheran theology that I find problematic is its tendancy to take its understanding of certain passages, like Romans 3 and 4 and Galatians 2, and use that understanding to harmonize/override other passages that seem to say something contrary.

Me: I am not sure how this would only apply to Lutheran theology. Every denomination or systematic theology has passages that they deal with that would seem to contradict its theology at points. May I ask what theology /denomination you belong to? In your example here, with Romans & Galations…one could say the same thing with Roman or Orthodox thought. ..that they use James 2 to harmonize/override other passages that seem to say something contrary. So I am unaware of any denomination that has troubling passages that they have to struggle with.

You said: I understand that Lutherans strive to interpret unclear passages with clear passages but sometimes neither passage seems unclear.

Me: I would think this principle is sound practice for every theological system. If both passages are unclear, then by definition, this principle would not apply.

cont....

Joe said...

Hi Jesse.

You said: To me it seems that James 2 falls into this category.

Me: I disagree. Romans/Galations/Ephesians, etc…all explicitly say that we are saved not by our works, but by faith. James could be interpreted as saying something contrary to this…but when we look at the passage closely, I do think it becomes clear that James does not contradict this concept. James example of faith is one that demons actually possess. This should show us pretty clearly that the faith he is speaking of, that demons possess, is drastically different than how Paul and others biblical authors speak of the efficacy, importance and significance of faith. Hence, they are using the term differently. So, not sure how you think James 2 falls into this category, especially since you do think James was using it more of an assent only.

You said: Another passage that seems to fall into this category is Luke 7:47. Even though Jesus says 3 verses later that the woman's faith saved her, in verse 47 he explicitly says that her sins are forgiven "for (hoti) she loved much." In this verse, her forgiveness is attributed to her love, which Lutheran theology says is a work, except I have heard Lutherans essentially dismiss this verse out of hand saying Jesus didn't mean that her love saved her. Why can't she be forgiven because of her love (v47) and her faith (v50)?

Me: She cannot be forgiven because of her love, because the bible says so. We are saved by grace, through faith, NOT by works. Jesus explicitly and directly tells us that her faith saved her in vs 50. If our salvation is dependent on how we love others…then it really is not a gospel at all, but very bad news, IMHO.

Since Jesus tells us what was the reason for her forgiveness, namely faith, and the pletheora of scriptural passages that link faith - apart from works - with salvation and eternal life...I really do not see how the passage could be interpreted as you are arguing.


In Him,

Joe

Jesse said...

Hi Joe,

I am a Lutheran who came out of Reformed theology, but I have been studying Roman Catholic Theology for almost the past two years and have found some of their points very interesting.

One of the things I really appreciated about Lutheran theology was its tendency to let the text speak even if it does not make sense according to human reason or if the texts don't fit together in a nice, neat systematic manner (for example, the doctrine of the Lord's Supper or predestination). I find it kind of odd though that that same sort of principle does not seem to be followed consistently when it comes to justification. I think the Luke passage I raised is a perfect example. You said with reference to Luke 7:47, "She cannot be forgiven because of her love, because the Bible says so." But the verse says the exact opposite. It says, "Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for [or "because"] she loved much." I do understand that the greater context of the passage also speaks of one loving due to forgiveness given, but does that then mean that we make v47 say something other than what it says? Even if we say it was faith that saved and her love was a result of faith and Jesus is saying here that the display of love is a sign of faith and it is this faith that saved her, we still have to deal with the grammar of this specific passage. And this specific passage does not say she was forgiven because of faith which one can see by love, but that she was forgiven because she loved. That's why I posed the question, why can't we take v47 and v50 as they stand? In some sense, why can't we say she was forgiven by both faith (v50) and love (v47) which are both gifts of God?

You said that to some degree every theological system harmonizes/overrides verses. I would agree. But from my studies, I've noticed at least two different ways systems do this. One way is to take all the passages that speak to a topic and try to harmonize the verses in such a way that all the verses can have their full force (a "both/and" sort of method). Another way I've seen this done is to take the meaning of certain key passages and interpret other passages through the lens of those key passages (a more systematic approach). In general, I think Lutherans use a both/and sort of approach but when it comes to justification, it seems they use a more systematic approach.

I'm a little confused in our discussion on James, so I'm going to back up a bit and summarize what my point was initially. Biblically, I think both Paul and James agree that faith saves, but not just any faith but a certain kind of faith, namely a faith that works/loves. I think this is why James says that faith without works is dead (2:17), man is justified by works and not by faith alone (2:24), and that Abraham's works completed his faith (2:22). This is why Paul, after explaining justification by faith, says that Christians don't overthrow the law with faith but they uphold it (Rom 3:31), Christians should not continue to sin (Rom 6:1-2), and that what counts is faith working through love (Gal 5:6). When taking these verses into account (as well as many others), it seems that the Scriptures teach justification by grace alone through a faith that works through love or, similarly, in the words of a few Reformed guys, justification is by faith alone, but faith is never alone in justification. In this understanding, both faith and works play vital (but different) roles in one's attainment of salvation.

Joe said...

Hi Jesse.

Thanks for your feedback. It very much sounds like we have wrestled and have gone through similar situations.

You said: I am a Lutheran who came out of Reformed theology, but I have been studying Roman Catholic Theology for almost the past two years and have found some of their points very interesting.

Me: Cool. I am also a Lutheran out of Reformed theology. Yea, I have some very close RC friends and have had real good discussions on our differences.


You said: One of the things I really appreciated about Lutheran theology was its tendency to let the text speak even if it does not make sense according to human reason or if the texts don't fit together in a nice, neat systematic manner (for example, the doctrine of the Lord's Supper or predestination).

Me: Me as well. Lutherans are more open to paradox I think than Reformed…and try to stay true to the text wherever that would lead.

You said: I find it kind of odd though that that same sort of principle does not seem to be followed consistently when it comes to justification. I think the Luke passage I raised is a perfect example. You said with reference to Luke 7:47, "She cannot be forgiven because of her love, because the Bible says so." But the verse says the exact opposite. It says, "Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for [or "because"] she loved much."

Me: Well, I guess I do not see the same instance of a paradox of sort here. If it is by grace through faith apart from works so no one may boast, then by necessity it cannot be by works. The woman's act of wiping Jesus’ feet with her tears, etc…is something she is doing, that is, she is working. I think the text clearly shows what was the reason for her being saved…her faith. If the bible says salvation comes from A, apart from B, then it cannot by definition, be from A and B. Why would this would not be a paradox but instead a contradiction?

You said: I do understand that the greater context of the passage also speaks of one loving due to forgiveness given, but does that then mean that we make v47 say something other than what it says?

Me: What it means is that we follow sound rules of interpretation, i.e…”interpret the text in its context - in light of what has come before and after, Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture…obscure passages are to be compared with the more clear, bearing on the same subject”, etc. So we let v47 say what makes sense it its immediate context and the rest of scripture, thereby allowing it to say, as you mention, that it is referring to loving and Jesus due to forgiveness already given.

cont...

Joe said...

You said: Even if we say it was faith that saved and her love was a result of faith and Jesus is saying here that the display of love is a sign of faith and it is this faith that saved her, we still have to deal with the grammar of this specific passage. And this specific passage does not say she was forgiven because of faith which one can see by love, but that she was forgiven because she loved.

Me: Right, the passage does not directly verbatim say that “she was forgiven because of faith which one can see by love”. If you are going to argue that all doctrines have to be spelled out in such an exact precise manner every time it speaks on an issue, then hardly any Christian doctrine could be formulated. The Trinity, dual nature of Christ, the Church, etc…would all fail by these standards. But the bible does say by grace through faith -apart from works - created to do good works. I am not sure how more precise it could get really than that.

You said: That's why I posed the question, why can't we take v47 and v50 as they stand? In some sense, why can't we say she was forgiven by both faith (v50) and love (v47) which are both gifts of God?

Me: But the text directly tells what saved her…that is, her faith. And the context shows, as you admit, that her actions actually are due to her forgiveness of sins. So it really seems like you are trying to force a specific meaning on the word “for” here that would not seem to fit. She had faith before she started her acts of worship of Him…so she, via faith, was saved prior her actions. Right?

"For" can be used in several ways. Given the context, why does it have to mean that it was efficacious for salvation and forgiveness, excluding all other uses of the word "for"?Interestingly, Augustine says on v47..."This was spoke on account of that Pharisee who thought that he had either no sins or but few"


cont...

Joe said...

You said: Biblically, I think both Paul and James agree that faith saves, but not just any faith but a certain kind of faith, namely a faith that works/loves. I think this is why James says that faith without works is dead (2:17), man is justified by works and not by faith alone (2:24), and that Abraham's works completed his faith (2:22). This is why Paul, after explaining justification by faith, says that Christians don't overthrow the law with faith but they uphold it (Rom 3:31), Christians should not continue to sin (Rom 6:1-2), and that what counts is faith working through love (Gal 5:6). When taking these verses into account (as well as many others), it seems that the Scriptures teach justification by grace alone through a faith that works through love or, similarly, in the words of a few Reformed guys, justification is by faith alone, but faith is never alone in justification. In this understanding, both faith and works play vital (but different) roles in one's attainment of salvation.

Me: Unless I misunderstand you, I guess I probably would not disagree with anything in your comments here.

As I see it, for Rome, our works are assigned an efficacy that merit eternal life. For Lutherans, our faith links us to Christ, whose perfect sinless life and work merits eternal life for us...and this faith is an active faith, a faith that is not alone, but with love and works. These works do not merit eternal life, since we are saved by grace through faith - apart from works - to do good works.

Works are certainly there in Lutheran thought as integral, but, we do not ascribe meriting eternal life to these works.

As Luther says, "I know that the other virtues are excellent gifts of God; I know that faith does not exist without these gifts. However, the question is what belongs to what. You hold in the hand various seeds. I do not, however, ask which are related to which but what is the peculiar virtue of each. Here say openly what faith alone does, not with what virtues it is connected. Faith alone apprehends the promise; this is the peculiar work of faith alone. The remaining virtues have other things with which they deal."

and

"We know that faith is never alone but brings with it love and other manifold gifts; it is never alone, but things must not for this reason be confused, and what belongs solely to faith must not be attributed to the other virtues."


in Him,

Joe

Jesse said...

Hi Joe,

Thanks for responding. Just to let you know, even though I am a Lutheran presently, I am presently considering becoming Catholic. There a couple things you said that I would like to make a quick comment on.

A contradiction in logic is only a contradiction if something is both A and not A in the same sense. So I think it is very possible for someone to be justified by grace through faith apart from works in one sense and be forgiven because of faith and love in another sense. One example of this being done is in the theology stated in the Council of Trent. In Chapter 8 of the 6th Session they said, “...we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification.” Later in Chapter 10 of the 6th Session, they say that man, having been justified, can increase in that justice (or “righteousness”) in sanctification which results in someone being further justified. With this understanding, someone can be justified by grace through faith apart from works at initial justification but can still be further justified by faith and love after that initial justification.

You said, “the passage does not directly verbatim say that “she was forgiven because of faith which one can see by love”. If you are going to argue that all doctrines have to be spelled out in such an exact precise manner every time it speaks on an issue, then hardly any Christian doctrine could be formulated.”

Just to be clear, Luke 7:47 is not the linchpin passage of the point I'm making. There are other passages I could also bring in which I think make my point stronger. I brought this verse up because I have been studying this verse in more detail recently.

With reference to your above statement, I do not expect to have doctrines spelled out in that exact manner every time it speaks on an issue. What I am expecting though is for every text to be dealt with seriously as it stands as much as possible.

A good example of this is how texts about baptism are dealt with. Before I believed in baptismal regeneration, I had a hard time dealing with texts like 1 Pet 3:21 and Acts 2:38. It wasn't until I realized I had to take the text seriously as it stands (“Baptism [subject]...saves [verb] you [direct object]” and “baptism...for the forgiveness of sins”), that I started considering the possibility of baptismal regeneration being correct.

The Greek word that is translated as “for” is the word hoti (usually translated as “that, since, because” or quotation marks). I understand that there are different functions of Greek words depending on the context. I am not saying that hoti here is being used purely as the grounds for what Jesus said. I'm just saying that it is one of the ways it is being used here (since Greek words can at times serve multiple functions). Does hoti need to be translated as “for” or “because”? I suppose not (although I haven't run into any other examples of hoti being used solely in an evidentiary way). But translating hoti as “for” or “because” is certainly a valid translation here. It seems that the only reason some would say it is not valid to translate hoti this way here is due to their theology derived from other passages (kind of like how many Baptists would want to say about the above baptism texts that they either cannot be talking about water baptism or “for” does not really mean “for” because the Bible says faith alone saves in other texts and baptism is a work).

I don't have any issue with the last comment you made in response to my summary. And it's actually what you said there that makes me think that for the most part the Lutheran and Catholic differences on the topic of justification may be mostly definitional or semantical differences (like how each side defines justification and how this definition affects their respective theologies). I think the real difference between Lutherans and Catholics is the issue of Sola Scriptura.

Joe said...

Hi Jesse.

Thanks again for your feedback.

You said: Thanks for responding. Just to let you know, even though I am a Lutheran presently, I am presently considering becoming Catholic. There a couple things you said that I would like to make a quick comment on.

Me: I wish you the best in your search for truth brother! May we all seek and find it. My walk of faith thus far has lead me to Lutheran thought...and as I understand Roman teachings, I find no comfort or hope in it. To think I have to merit/earn eternal life, is just something I know my sinful life could never do.

You said: A contradiction in logic is only a contradiction if something is both A and not A in the same sense. So I think it is very possible for someone to be justified by grace through faith apart from works in one sense and be forgiven because of faith and love in another sense.

Me: Agree. If we mean that love is the evidence of faith, present with faith, but does not merit or earn eternal life. Faith does that…because Christ alone does that.

You said: ..In Chapter 8 of the 6th Session they said, “...we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification.” Later in Chapter 10 of the 6th Session, they say that man, having been justified, can increase in that justice (or “righteousness”) in sanctification which results in someone being further justified. With this understanding, someone can be justified by grace through faith apart from works at initial justification but can still be further justified by faith and love after that initial justification.

Me: Well, I am no expert on Rome’s infallible teachings to be sure. I think it comes down to as Luther said, what function (faith, works) does what…not what aspect is present. To say that the multitude of grace and faith-apart from works- passages refer only to one’s initial justification or to the unregenerate state though, is an extreme case of trying to squeeze one’s predetermined theological system into the text. IMHO, many of the grace/faith passages, in their context, are clearly not referring only to the unregenerate state…but even to those who have already been regenerated.

But so I understand, are you saying then that we are saved/justified by faith alone initially, and then we merit eternal life by our works after this initial justification? So we could say, we are saved by faith alone initially, but consequently, we are saved by our faith and works, so it is not of grace and that we have something to boast about after the initial conversion?


You said: Just to be clear, Luke 7:47 is not the linchpin passage of the point I'm making. There are other passages I could also bring in which I think make my point stronger. I brought this verse up because I have been studying this verse in more detail recently.

Me: Okay…I am encouraged that you admit this it is not your strongest point. To this I wholeheartedly agree...since I think I have shown that this text shows the opposite of how your are interpreting it. I think for the reasons previously stated, this text does not speak about her actions saving/forgiving her. The context shows otherwise, as you admit. As far as other passages, obviously we can discuss those as well.

cont...

Joe said...

You said: With reference to your above statement, I do not expect to have doctrines spelled out in that exact manner every time it speaks on an issue. What I am expecting though is for every text to be dealt with seriously as it stands as much as possible.

Me: Well, it does appear that you are holding this text to exactly do that, to spell it out in this manner...since you agree the context shows that her actions were evidence. And I would agree, that every text should be dealt with seriously..and that it why we do not ignore sound principles of interpretation or ignore the context.

You said: A good example of this is how texts about baptism are dealt with. Before I believed in baptismal regeneration, I had a hard time dealing with texts like 1 Pet 3:21 and Acts 2:38.

Me:In terms of baptism texts…I whole-heartedly agree. My conversion from Reformed thought to Lutheran thought was essentially because of the baptismal texts and ability to lose one salvation texts that I had to deal with, as you say, on a more “serious” level.

You said: The Greek word that is translated as “for” is the word hoti (usually translated as “that, since, because” or quotation marks). I understand that there are different functions of Greek words depending on the context. I am not saying that hoti here is being used purely as the grounds for what Jesus said. I'm just saying that it is one of the ways it is being used here (since Greek words can at times serve multiple functions).... It seems that the only reason some would say it is not valid to translate hoti this way here is due to their theology derived from other passages...

Me:In terms of Greek, I am not trained at all in this area, so will defer to Jordan or whoever has said training. However, at the risk of being redundant, why would using “for” as an evidential way be only reasonable because of theology derived from other passages? You admit that this texts’ context actually gives solid evidence to the contrary! That is, it actually gives contextual reason to the idea that here actions gave evidence of her faith, etc… I agree with your comments about Baptist and faith alone…except that baptism is not a work, at least by the baptizee, but rather, it is a work of God. As the giving of faith is a work of God, so is baptism.

cont..

Joe said...

You said: . And it's actually what you said there that makes me think that for the most part the Lutheran and Catholic differences on the topic of justification may be mostly definitional or semantical differences (like how each side defines justification and how this definition affects their respective theologies). I think the real difference between Lutherans and Catholics is the issue of Sola Scriptura

Me: While, I do agree that compared with the caricatures of each side, the differences are not as big..but I would disagree to say that they are “mostly” or just semantics. If this was the case, then either Rome misunderstood the Reformation completely, and they did not actually condemn Luther. I know Rome’s documents are interpreted differently by different Roman theologians and hierarchy…but clearly Trent anathematized Lutheran thought on the subject of “faith alone”. I find it very odd that the current Pope can say that one can be saved without faith in Christ at all, and yet, if holding to the infallible statements of Trent, must also say that those of us who hold to “faith alone” in Christ, are still condemned. Certainly Luther thought it was the most important difference as he called justification the article on which the Church stands or falls...and Rome thought the differences on justification were important enough to condemn all we believe that we are saved by faith alone.

As far as Sola Scriptura, certainly there are differences…but would not say that is the “real’ difference. I would say that Roman and Lutheran thought is closer on SS then it is on justification. Again, for Rome, you merit eternal life with our works. Lutheran thought is not this, at all. It is through Christ works alone. I think this would be a bigger difference than the degree in which one see’s how infallible tradition is. Not only that, there are difference of opinion of how sufficient Rome sees the scriptures, depending on which apologist you talk to. Some think the bible is materially sufficient whereas others do not. So depending on this, the differences on SS are even less.

I like Chemntiz quote on some of the differences with justification.

"Where this one topic of justification is rightly explained and understood as it is revealed in the doctrine of the Gospel, it affords the necessary and most abundant consolation to pious consciences an illuminates an amplifies the glory of the Son of God, our Redeemer and Mediator.... However, the memory of the tortures of conscience under the papacy is not yet altogether dead, when the consciences were wrestling in temptation with sin and with the wrath of God, and wer anxiously seeking some firm and sure consolation. Christ was passed over, who alone suffices for all righteousness, and people were directed now to the sanctity of required works, now to making their own satisfaction through works that are not required, now to works of supererogation, and again to the treasure of the merits of the religious orders, to various brotherhoods, to the pleading of the saints, to pilgrimages, to the sales of indulgences; and where all did they not lead and drive the poor consciences! Finally when all these things had been done, they left them in the saddest doubt, setting before them, alas, the consolation of the fire of purgatory."

in Him,

Joe H

Jesse said...

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your encouragement.

In your previous response, you said, "But so I understand, are you saying then that we are saved/justified by faith alone initially, and then we merit eternal life by our works after this initial justification? So we could say, we are saved by faith alone initially, but consequently, we are saved by our faith and works, so it is not of grace and that we have something to boast about after the initial conversion?"

I'm not sure if you think Catholics believe this, but I did want to make a brief comment on this. Catholics believe that all good things (whether faith or works) can only be done by the grace of God. So to ever say that Catholics think they can do any good work apart from the grace of God and be able to boast about it is not a very good characterization of the Catholic position.

For example, here is a quick quote from Trent concerning the grace of God. In the 6th Session of the Council of Trent on Justification, Canon 1 says, "If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema."

I'm not saying I buy into the above view (with the modification that the works are done through grace). But the view I was explaining was essentially saying we are brought into communion with God through the death and resurrection of Christ by grace . Once we are in communion with God we are expected to keep his commandments and continue believing both of which are still done by grace. If someone continues in faith and good works to the end, communion of God will be maintained and if they reject God's commandments and cease to believe, communion with God will be severed. In this view, both faith and works are involved the attainment of final justification and (if I'm understanding Catholic theology correctly) God has freely chosen to reward one's faith and works and one of those rewards is eternal life (Gal 6:8). In this view, no one can take personal credit for their faith, works, or salvation, but we are still held responsible for our lives.

With reference to the Luke 7 passage, I did some more research and found various translations of this verse from both Catholic and Protestant sources. I still find the translation of hoti here interesting, and I would still be interested in finding other examples of hoti used in an evidential sense that excludes all sense of cause, but because of the wide range of opinion on the translation of this word, I'm not going to make any more comments about it at this time.

One thing you have mentioned over and over again is "for Rome, you merit eternal life with our works." I would like to know how you understand what Catholics mean when they say this.

Joe said...

Hi Jesse.

It would appear that Paul is emphatic that if we are saved by works at all, that it is not by grace and that if it was by works we have something to boast. Since Rome does embrace our works meriting eternal life, in turn, under that paradigm there would be something to boast...since the person's works are earning eternal life. But perhaps they are just logically inconsistent on this point and would not actually say that, which would be good of course.

You said: For example, here is a quick quote from Trent concerning the grace of God. In the 6th Session of the Council of Trent on Justification, Canon 1 says, "If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema."

Me: Right, again, this shows they are not Pelagian.

You said: I'm not saying I buy into the above view (with the modification that the works are done through grace). But the view I was explaining was essentially saying we are brought into communion with God through the death and resurrection of Christ by grace . Once we are in communion with God we are expected to keep his commandments and continue believing both of which are still done by grace. If someone continues in faith and good works to the end...

Me: I think it goes back to both faith and good works are involved in both systems...but both they have different efficacies. For Lutherans, we never merit/earn salvation with our works, Christ work did that...whereas Rome has our works meriting eternal life.

You said: With reference to the Luke 7 passage.. but because of the wide range of opinion on the translation of this word, I'm not going to make any more comments about it at this time.

Me:okay.

You said: One thing you have mentioned over and over again is "for Rome, you merit eternal life with our works." I would like to know how you understand what Catholics mean when they say this.

Me:Just as it sounds. Our works, done through the grace of God, merit eternal life. At least, that is how I read Trent and some Roman apologists.

Quoting Tim Staples in an article against Luther's theology, says: For St. Paul, any works done either before entering into Christ or apart from Christ profit nothing. But works done in Christ are a different story. Before Christ, unregenerate men are “dead in trespasses and sins,” and “by nature children of wrath,” as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-3. But after entering into Christ, Phillipians 4:13 says, “I can do all things in [Christ] who strengthens me.” And according to Romans 2:6-7, “all things” includes meriting eternal life.

Actually reading a book now called "Reformation: A problem for today" by respected Roman historian Joseph Lortz. In this work, he argues that there were misunderstandings, hence the sides are much closer to one another and should come together, and it was wrong to divide/separate. I have not read the whole book, so it should be interesting.

Thanks for the discussion!

in Him,

Joe

Anonymous said...

A catholic friend of mine told me that justification is by faith, meaning that God forgives our sins for the sake of Christ, but that it means something as a "fresh start" and that we by faith do good works by which the rest of our lives is being justified. He says this is consistent with the teachings of Jesus Himself, who he says, preached a message of works salvation and texts in revelations which speak of "he that overcomes" about entering the eternal life, and those keeping the commandments. He says it means working out your salvation. That faith in Christ is something that gets us in the right relationship with God, but that we need to maintain the relation by works.

I am confused on this. I always struggle by the sharp contrast between faith and works in protestant theology, because it is something I believe not affirmed by Catholicism and Eastern Orthtodoxy and many church fathers. Offcourse there were church fathers who taught justification by faith on one hand, but on the other that after that you need to maintain justified by your own works, which seems to favor the catholic postition of infused righteousness.

I am confused, can anyone explain this to me :S

Greetings, James