Archive for February, 2008

Misconceptions about Roman Catholicism: Works Salvation

February 29, 2008

This post is intended to be part of series on misconceptions about Roman Catholicism. In this post, we address the issue of works salvation. Roman Catholicism, according to the Reformation, teaches works salvation.

What we do not mean:

1) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism teaches that man unassisted by grace merits salvation.
2) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism denies the necessity of grace.
3) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism is fully Pelagian.
4) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism denies a role for grace at every stage of salvation.
5) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism denies any role for Christ’s sacrifice in salvation.

We admit:

1) We admit that Roman Catholicism teaches that grace is necessary for salvation.
2) We admit that Roman Catholicism teaches that grace is involved at every point in salvation.
3) We admit that Roman Catholicism ascribes great importance to grace.
4) We admit that Roman Catholicism condemns Pelagianism.
5) We admit that Roman Catholicism views good works as the product of grace.
6) We admit that Roman Catholicism has a role for the sacrifice of Christ in salvation.


We criticize the Roman Catholic position as teaching works-salvation, because of a semi-Peligian error: the ascription of a role for human cooperation in salvation. We view Roman Catholicism as teaching works-salvation because:

1) Roman Catholicism teaches that cooperation with grace is also necessary for salvation. (“by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace” – Trent, Session 6, Chapter 5, see also Canons IV and IX on Justification)

2) Roman Catholicism teaches that cooperation with grace is necessary at many points in salvation. (Ibid, chapters 7 (“the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-operation”) and 10 (“they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified”),

3) Roman Catholicism condemns monergism (“CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” – “CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.”).

4) Roman Catholicism teaches the meritorious value of good works performed by mere men (“CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.”).

5) Roman Catholicism teaches final justification based on actual (infused) righteousness (“For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God” … “Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ. “).

6) Roman Catholicism teaches that it is possible for human beings to expiate sin through acts of contrition. (Trent, Fourteenth Session, Chapter 5, “For venial sins, whereby we are not excluded from the grace of God, and into which we fall more frequently, although they be rightly and profitably, and without any presumption declared in confession, as the custom of pious persons demonstrates, yet may they be omitted without guilt, and be expiated by many other remedies.”)

7) Roman Catholicism teaches that Purgatory removes the guilt of sin (Trent, Twenty-Fifth Session, Decree Concerning Purgatory: “there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar;” “CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.”).

Therefore, for these reasons, we hold that Rome teaches salvation by works, in contravention of the Scriptural doctirnes of sola gratia and sola fide. We criticize the Roman Catholic position as teaching works-salvation, because of a semi-Peligian error: the ascription of a role for human cooperation in salvation. We, of course, do not conflate that particular semi-Pelagian error with historic Semi-Pelagianism in all its minutiae, nor is the label the point. The point is that works salvation is not the gospel and will not save.

We preach a different gospel: a gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and

To the glory of God alone,


Miscellaneous Responses to Orthodox

February 26, 2008

A while back (this post has been three months, thirteen days in the making), Orthodox offered a set of comments that I never fully responded to. I take this opportunity to do so.

Legend: MP (Me, i.e. TurretinFan, Previously); O (Orthodox); G (Gene Bridges) and TF (TurretinFan)
MP: A command is not an offer. The imperative command to repent and believe is consequently neither false, nor an offer.
O: Repent, believe and you will be saved is an offer by any reasonable definition thereof.
TF: It can be viewed as an offer, it can be viewed as a warning, and it can even be viewed as a threat. It can even be viewed as an opportunity. Just about any command can be viewed those various ways, especially commands with promise (compare, for example, the fifth commandment: Honor thy father … that thy days may be long …).

MP: Furthermore, no one is able to be sinless, and yet the law does command that. The law is not a “false offer” because it commands what man cannot do.
O: Where is the evidence that man cannot be sinless? Man chooses not to be sinless, I don’t see the evidence that man cannot be sinless. Christ commands “be perfect”. It remains the aim. That nobody has done it doesn’t prove that man cannot do it. Men would find it very difficult to do it, but not impossible.
TF: The fact that nobody has done it is strong evidence that man cannot do it. But the proof is in Scripture. Scripture explains that the natural man is at emnity with God.

MP: An affirmation of man’s ability to obey the commands is an affirmation of Pelagianism.
O: No, Pelagianism says that man can do it without the assistance of grace. Since God promises grace to those who ask, clearly this has nothing to do with Pelagianism.
TF: It is has “nothing to do with” Pelagianism in the same way that semi-Pelagianism has nothing to do with Pelagianism. But, of course, that’s not a defense of man’s ability. If you are saying that grace is required, you are affirming man’s natural inability.

MP:. If one recognizes that grace is necessary for man to obey, then one must realize that man’s ability to obey commands has nothing to do with whether the commands are fair, reasonable, or the like.
O: Not so, because God freely gives grace to those who ask. God is not asking for anything for which he doesn’t provide the means.
TF: That’s a bit different position. Nevertheless, if the question is whether God provides the means, then the question is whether God must provide such means, given the command. If so, then he does not provide the means freely, and consequently it is not properly called grace, since man would have a right to demand such means.

MP: a) Men are condemned for their sins. It would be no excuse if salvation were not offered, just as it is no excuse that not all have the gospel preached to them
O: Paul says that God’s qualities are made manifest so that men are without excuse. According to you it is unnecessary because men are without excuse anyway. Well, go argue with the apostle.
TF: God’s qualities are not the gospel. Thus, this is a fallacy of equivocation. It is also fallacy of denying the antecedent: as a logical matter, simply because they are without excuse because God has manifested Himself to them, does not imply (as a matter of logic) that they would have been with excuse if God had not revealed Himself to them.

MP: b) Men are condemned for their sins. Lack of atonement is simply the fact of the matter for those who are not “at one” with God.
O; Again, go argue with the apostle. Apparently he thinks that knowing the basics about God is a prerequisite to not having an excuse.
TF: Same fallacies here as in the previous paragraph: and perhaps even more aggravated. The apostle doesn’t address the issue of the atonement, and does not deny that men are condemned for their sins.

MP: I answer: That’s not an accurate picture of Reformed theology. If anyone truly repents and believes, they will be saved. End of story.
O: You have to [add] that “truly” [] in order to exclude a whole lot of people who sincerely believe that they repented and believe but later fall away. You are forced to make “truly” to have a special meaning []. Except that the bible never lists such a group.
TF: The apostle James in his catholic epistle discusses that group: the group with a “dead” faith.

MP: I answer: That’s a misrepresentation of the Reformed position as well as of Scripture.
a) The categories of hypocrites, self-deceived, and wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing are Biblical categories; and
O: Hypocrites are not the categories under discussion. Don’t distract from the topic by bringing in something else. What was under discussion was people who were sincere but then fell away.
TF: It seems O wants to discuss only the self-deceived.

O: As for “self-deceived”, since repentance and belief are something that the self does within oneself, it’s not a sensical object of self-deception. By putting that in there you open the floodgates to everything and everyone potentially being self-deceived.
TF: First of all, to deny self-deception generally would be foolish.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Since sin is something that one does within oneself, any categorical barrier as proposed would necessarily conflict with the apostle’s teaching.

To argue that this is a slippery slope, one must establish not only that there is a slope, but that it is steep and slippery. This argument can be defeated if there are fences in places to prevent the slope from being considered steep and slippery. In this case there are several fences: one is the various testimonies adduced in John’s first catholic epistle, another related one is the discussion in James’ catholic epistle.

O: And again, you introduce this wholly unbiblical category of people who think they believe but don’t. A scary category to have in a theological system indeed.
TF: James addresses people in that category in his epistle. Those with “dead” faith. Also, we see that category in the parable of the sower.

MP: b) The parable of the sower provides a great lesson in the distinction between false and true faith.
O: In the parable of the sower, seeds grow up and then are choked and die. There’s no suggestion they weren’t valid seeds to begin with.
TF: You don’t seem very familiar with the parable. In the parable, the seed is the Word of God. The various hearts are the various grounds. The good ground is one, but there are several types of bad ground.

MP: I answer: It’s really not dependent on any Reformed order of salvation
O: Yes it is, because your claim is that since the ice-cream man controls who steps into his shop he can put out the sign offering to all. But if that ordering is challenged, your argument ceases.
TF: I honestly don’t understand this objection – perhaps it is because the context is missing.

MP: but even if it were, that would be fair game, given the nature of the counter-objection.
O: When you are trying to prove a doctrine not explicitely taught in scripture, it doesn’t look good when you use as justification another doctrine not explicitely taught in scripture. That’s why I say you’ve got so many precepts built upon precepts you can’t see the bottom any more.
TF: That remark is not accurate or handy. The hidden assumption that every doctrine has to be found explicitly in Scripture is not a tenant of either yours or mine. And – as well – it seems you are mistaking rebuttal for proof.

G: This is a classic case of Orthodox utterly ignoring what he has been told in the past
O: No, it’s a case of you having an incomprehensibly complicated system that isn’t taught in the bible.
TF: Sometimes incomprehensibility is in the mind of the beholder. I think this is such a case, because I know plenty of people who comprehend the system. As for it not being taught in Scripture, we both know that arguments have presented showing that it is taught in Scripture. Simply stating to the contrary is a dispute, but not argument.


Endorsement of the Real Turretin

February 25, 2008

I was pleased to read this succinct uniequivocal endorsement of the real Francis Turretin (link). May God grant us more men like him. The blog hosting the endorsement is called “Daniel and the Lion’s Den,” and seems to be hosted by Danny Patterson.


Redundancy in James?

February 23, 2008

In the King James Version, the James 5:16 seems to contain a little redundancy and/or truism:

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

The redundancy is “effectual” and “availeth much.” If it is effectual (in modern usage) then it means it works.

The apparent redundancy is a result of a slight semantic shift and an attempt to convey a Greek word in English.

The underlying Greek is:

Jas 5:16 εξομολογεισθε αλληλοις τα παραπτωματα και ευχεσθε υπερ αλληλων οπως ιαθητε πολυ ισχυει δεησις δικαιου ενεργουμενη

In this, the phrase in question is: “πολυ ισχυει δεησις δικαιου ενεργουμενη”

πολυ => greatly
ισχυει => enables/has force
δεησις => (a / the) prayer
δικαιου => righteous
ενεργουμενη => [(the thing that) is (itself) empowering]

The tricky word, as you can guess, is the last one – it is a present middle participle, which is a bit challenging to express in English. The KJV translators tried to express its meaning using the phrase “effectual fervent.” The point of the passage is that we should pray for one another, and that we should have confidence to pray for one another on the basis that an empowered prayer by a righteous man can accomplish great things, both as to physical healing and also conversion: with Elias’ prayers for and against rain provided as an example.

Pray to God and pray boldly, for if God gives your prayer power, you may save a soul by prayer!


Heart and Ear Circumcision

February 22, 2008

I happened to be reading and came across this gem:


He saith also again concerning our ears how he hath circumcised our heart. The Lord saith in the prophet, They have hearkened unto me with the hearing of their ears; and again, he saith, They that are afar off shall hear with their ears; they shall know what I have done; and be ye circumcised, saith the Lord, in your heart; and again, Hear, O Israel, for thus saith the Lord thy God; and again the Spirit of the Lord prophesied, Who is he that wisheth to live for ever? let him hearken unto the voice of my Son.

And again he saith, Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken these things for a testimony. And again he saith, Hearken unto the voice of the Lord, ye rulers of this people. And again he saith, Hearken ye children unto the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

To this end, therefore, hath he circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe; for the circumcision in which they trust is done away with.

For he hath said that circumcision is not that which was made in the flesh; but they have transgressed, for an evil angel hath deluded them. He saith unto them, These things saith the Lord your God, —here I find a new commandment—Sow not among thorns, but be ye circumcised unto your Lord. And what saith he? Circumcise the hardness of your hearts, and harden not your neck. And again, Behold, saith the Lord, all the Gentiles are uncircumcised in their foreskin, but this people is uncircumcised in their hearts.


Who is this Calvinistic writer? Who is it that believes that God circumcised our hearing, that when we hear his word, we should believe? The answer is the author of the Epistle of Barnabas (usually thought not actually to be written by the companion of Paul).

Our knowledge of the content of the book is largely thanks to its inclusion in the Codex Sinaiticus, and has been dated to the first or second century (generally between A.D. 70 – 150).

The translation above is Charles Hoole’s (I have not verified its accuracy against the Greek) and is available via Google Books here (link).

Praise be to God for the Irresistable grace of Circumcision of heart, mind, eyes, and ears,


Remember this guy?

February 21, 2008

Do you remember Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf? He was the Iraqi official who reported on the very brief Iraq invasion in terms that were extremely favorable to the Iraqi ruling regime.

One example of his lines:

“Now even the American command is under siege. We are hitting it from the north, east, south and west. We chase them here and they chase us there. But at the end we are the people who are laying siege to them. And it is not them who are besieging us.”

Many more here (link). In a somewhat macabre pun he was labelled “Comical Ali.”

Then I read this similarly comical balderdash:

“Protestants run from or mock Catholic presentations, rather than interact with them; let alone try to refute them. There appears to be a crisis of confidence in Protestant circles.”

Meanwhile, when asked by one of his Catholic supporters to address a Protestant article, he turns tail:

“I’m trying to get away from replying to anti-Catholics. “

I had to laugh out loud. His position has been crushed from every side, and is cut off more and more each day, but he announces that the matter is just the oppsite. He fails to respond to critique after critique of his own work, but the bluster comes hard and thick.

This guy actually is so brazen as to claim: “But these guys are all petrified of discussing it with me “live”, with everyone watching.”

Not even his Catholic supporters buy it any more. I would be surprised if even one of the people whom he “challenged” was even the slightest bit worried, much less afraid, and certainly none were petrified of discussing the matter with him “live” with people watching.

As one of the people falsely charged, I can testify that this guy’s fear-sensing ability is as good as his exegetical abilities.

One can almost hear the immortal words of Comical Ali:

“They fled. The American louts fled. Indeed, concerning the fighting waged by the heroes of the Arab Socialist Baath Party yesterday, one amazing thing really is the cowardice of the American soldiers. we had not anticipated this.”

May God pour out his mercy on those in the Catholic church, and particular on her propagandists,


UPDATE: Reginald has noted that I did not ask his opinion before posting this. (link) Specifically, he found the line: “Not even his Catholic supporters buy it any more,” overstretched, I think. Obviously, I guess I should add that perhaps some of his supporters may actually think that the people Dave “challenged” are quaking in their boots with fear of Dave. From comments I’ve seen by Catholics on this, though, I believe that many realize that Dave’s imagination has gotten the better of him.

Samuel Miller on Fasting

February 20, 2008

One of my readers recently pointed out that Samuel Miller’s work on fasting is apparently available in reprint. Here’s a link to a very readable web version (link). Even more significantly, here is a link to an older (and one would think, copyright free) copy of Miller’s Sermons (there are two back-to-back) beginning at page 145 (the first page of the link) of an edition of the National Preacher and continuing to page 160 (link to article from the National Preacher).

Note that since the journal is available as a Google Book, you can download the book in PDF form or page by page in text form, for reading off-line or printing.


Numerology is Silly And Self-Defeating

February 20, 2008

Go here (link) and try e-Calculator. I mean in the e-Calculator they provide, enter the letters: “E” “C” “A” “L” “C” “U” “L” “A” “T” “O” “R”. There’s your proof.

Revelation 14:1 – How Many Greek Texts Match the TR?

February 19, 2008

I recently heard a radio interview in which the person advocating the position against the KJV-only position, asserted that none of the Greek manuscripts match the Textus Receptus in omitting “his name and” in Revelation 14:1. The KJV, however, follows the Textus Receptus precisely in this place and omits the “his name and” from the text.

I thought this was interesting, so I checked the UBS4 and the NA27. Neither even makes reference to the variant reading. Perhaps that is the reason that the person on the radio assumed that there was no Greek manuscript support for the omission.

However, Tischendorf’s 8th Edition identifies at least two manuscripts (P and 1) that omit the phrase. It also appears that the Slavonic version omits the phrase.

Using standard modern textual critical techniques, one would expect that the shorter reading would be preferred, and the longer reading would be dismissed as interpolation. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. Instead, the longer reading is preferred by the critical text.

I’m inclined to favor the longer reading myself, because it is easier for me to imagine how the phrase could be omitted than inserted. I find the internal evidence uncompelling. The phrase doesn’t have any immediate connection to the remainder of the text.

Revelation 3:12 seems to slightly support the longer reading. Some of the later parts of Revelation also seem to support the longer reading, in that God and the Lamb are clearly united (Revelation 22:1-2). Furthermore, I reject the conventional view that scribes are more likely to add than omit, in fact I tend to believe scribes more likely to accidentally omit. Here there is a reasonable explanation for how P and 1 (and others?) could have omitted the phrase, the Greek phrase is:

τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ
the name his and the name the father his

Notice how the two phrases begin with the same two words, and even end with the same word (although that last word may be the subject for another time). This kind of scenario would make it very easy for a scribe to accidentally lose his place and pick up from the wrong spot in copying out the text, thereby inadvertently omitting the phrase from the copy. This would seem to be a relatively easy explanation for manuscripts P and 1 that would account for the presence of the phrase in the major version (Latin) and the majority of the Greek manuscripts.

Incidentally, one does not find the omitted phrase in any of the TR Bibles, starting with the Tyndale Bible. One does, however, find the phrase in the older Wycliffe Bibles, which were translated from the Vulgate.

What is the bottom line? The person making the claim on the radio was probably wrong. A few Greek manuscripts do contain the variant reading. Nevertheless, the point that the person was trying to make, namely that the support for the variant is weak (miniscule, we’d say, if we were trying to amuse), is correct. Revelation 14:1 represents a verse at which it seems that the KJV might be capable of improvemen, which was the guy’s point.


Public Solemn Fasting according to the Directory for Public Worship

February 19, 2008

Concerning Public Solemn Fasting.
WHEN some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people, or apparently imminent, or by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, public solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expects from that nation or people.

A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint,) but also from all worldly labor, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, and such like, (although at other times lawful,) rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the fast; and much more from whatever is in the nature or use scandalous and offensive, as gaudy attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.

Before the public meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.
So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in public reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:

“Giving glory to the great Majesty of God, the Creator, Preserver, and supreme Ruler of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with an holy reverence and awe of him; acknowledging his manifold, great, and tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually to soften and abase our hearts before him; humbly confessing of sins of all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God’s righteous judgments, as being far less than our sins do deserve; yet humbly and earnestly imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church and nation, for our king, and all in authority, and for all others for whom we are bound to pray, (according as the present exigent requires,) with more special importunity and enlargement than at other times; applying by faith the promises and goodness of God for pardon, help, and deliverance from the evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for ever unto the Lord.”

In all these, the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and their people may be much affected, and even melted thereby, especially with sorrow for their sins; that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul.

Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such tests for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance: insisting most on those particulars which each minister’s observation and experience tells him are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that congregation to which he preaches.

Before the close of the public duties, the minister is, in his own and the people’s name, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord’s, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss among them, and more particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of; and to draw near unto God, and to walk more closely and faithfully with him in new obedience, than ever before.

He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the public duties of it, but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in reinforcing upon themselves and their families in private all those godly affections and resolutions which they professed in public, as that they may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find that God hath smelt a sweet savor in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.

Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by authority, we judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other public duties of worship.

(spelling modernized by TurretinFan – original by the Westminster Assembly)

Note what set forth in the second paragraph as to how a fast is to be observed. No eating, except for medical necessity. No “bodily delights.” No jewels, no fancy clothes. No working, and no thoughts about work. The whole day is to be consumed with worship and especially prayer. Yet this is not something to be done according to a calendar, but when a special cause arises that provokes the people of God to publicly entreat his mercy and grace.


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