Archive for the ‘Sola Gratia’ Category

Is Faith a Work? Of course not! But why not?

December 11, 2012

Roy Ingle (Arminian) says, “no.” And that’s fine. Properly considered, faith is not a work. But what is missing from his explanation is any cogent explanation of why obedient response to the command to “Believe,” that is proclaimed in the Gospel is not properly a work.

For example, Ingle does not argue from the fact that faith is not a work because faith is a gift of God. As it is written:

Ephesians 2:4-10
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

You see, we are his workmanship, and we are made for good works. We are not our own makers who made ourselves by our works. All of salvation, even faith, is a gift of God. And from that faith come many good works. When we were dead in sins, he regenerated us unto good works.
Mr. Ingle makes the claim: “The idea that a person believes the gospel because they were first regenerated to do so has no biblical basis.” What a remarkable claim! He quotes Ephesians 2:1-3 – if only he had read on to the following paragraph!
Mr. Ingle asserts: “The Arminian position is that all can be saved through faith in Jesus.” I suppose that they all could be, if God gave all of them faith. But God does not, and without faith it is impossible to please God. As it is written: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
While it is great that Mr. Ingle inconsistently affirms that faith is not a work (and we agree with him that properly understood, it is not a work), it is disappointing to see that this truth is held inconsistently with other views which tend to suggest that faith is a work.
What does Mr. Ingle have that he did not receive? Will he say faith? What makes Mr. Ingle any different from the reprobate? Will he say faith? And if he does, will he attribute this to his own running or willing? If he says, “faith,” but confesses that this is from God, he preserves consistency. If he says, “faith,” but attributes faith to the will or power of man, then he has effectively converted faith into a work, and holds a position that is internally inconsistent.

-TurretinFan

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Did the Acts 15 "Council" Rely on the Exegesis of Scripture?

February 19, 2012

Jason Stewart (whose apostasy was recently discussed), has posted a fictitious (and apparently also intended as facetious) dialog under the title, “Taking a Stand on the Scriptures Against the Traditions of Men.”  The title is mocking, of course.  Stewart posits a hypothetical dialog between two Judaizers in the mid-first century.  Stewart’s attempt flops for a number of significant reasons, which we will investigate under several questions (I briefly examined the general question before).

I. Did the assembly in Acts 15 act on the authority of Scripture?

Stewart’s dialog is more telling than he might like to admit.  He writes:

Phineas: “Well, tell me what Scripture texts they cited to prove their position.”

Malachi: “They didn’t. Not a single one. Well, not unless you count Bishop James quoting a couple of verses from Amos during his summary. But afterward I went back and looked, and that passage has nothing to do with circumcision. So I don’t know why he even referred to it.”

First, let’s look at what the text of Scripture actually says:

Acts 15:13-19

And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, after this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

The italicized portion is a quotation from Amos 9:11-12:

In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.

First, it is telling that Stewart’s characters (and presumably Stewart himself) do not know why the Scripture was quoted.  Actually “Phineas”/Stewart says:

Phineas: “I never thought I’d say this but it sounds like there’s more of the Council’s will at work here than God’s. It has all the makings of a man-made tradition imposed as God’s will. They have absolutely no scriptural basis for what they’ve done. Tacking on a Scripture verse at the end doesn’t make it all okay. In truth, this doesn’t just lack a biblical basis, it flat out contradicts the Scriptures. I’m still reeling from this news. I never thought I’d see the day.”

(emphasis added)

But isn’t it absurd to suppose that the verse was just “tacked on”?  Is it just because it has a nice poetic sound to it?  Or was there a reason?  Of course, there was a reason.

James explains that Peter’s testimony (and implicitly the testimony of Paul and Barnabas as well) regarding what the Holy Spirit did among the Gentiles is trustworthy, because of what the Scriptures say.  Their alleged experience is being judged by what the Scriptures say.

Stewart’s claim (in the mouth of “Malachi”) is that these verses have “nothing to do with circumcision.” That just seems to demonstrate Stewart’s lack of exegetical fortitude.  The verses do have to do with circumcision, although they don’t use the word “circumcision.”  How so?

These verses refer to the “heathen which are called by my name.”  These are heathen people, not Jews, yet they are called by the name of the Lord.  What distinguishes heathen from Jews?  Chiefly, the visible (though obviously not prominent) mark is circumcision.  That they are referred to as heathen even while being called by the name of the Lord, demonstrates that they do not require circumcision in order to be the followers of God.

Moreover, note that God is taking credit for “doing this.”  That’s monergism at its finest.  James’ comment, “Known unto God are all his works …” is his acknowledgment that the prophecy of Amos has been fulfilled.  James’ statement, however, is also gleaned from the prophets in that it is at least implied in the following passages:

Ecclesiastes 3:11  He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Isaiah 48:3  I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.

James was citing Scripture as authority on this question of the circumcision.  But Amos 9:11-12 is not the only passage dealing with the future in-gathering of the Gentiles:

Isaiah 60:3  And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

Isaiah 60:5  Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.

Isaiah 60:9  Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.

Jeremiah 16:19  O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.

Psalm 72:17  His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.

Isaiah 65:1  I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.

Jeremiah 3:17  At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.

Romans 9:26  And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. [Note: this one is included just to demonstrate that I’m not alone in thinking that the Old Testament said this.]

Isaiah 56:1-8
Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

Nevertheless, Amos is the most explicit in terms of describing the “heathen that are called by my name.”  In short, James and more generally the assembly at Jerusalem described in Acts 15 did act on the authority of Scripture, and the relevant Scripture did answer the question, without using the word “circumcision.”

II. What was the Rationale of the Assembly?

Mr. Stewart included the following exchange in his dialog:

Phineas: “So on what basis did they make the decision?! They had to give some rationale!”
Malachi: “Peter related his experiences of Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit by faith, and then Paul and Barnabas told stories from the mission field. But at the end of the discussion it was Bishop James that said, and I’ll quote him best as I remember, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place this burden of circumcision on you Gentiles.”

It’s remarkable how “Malachi”/Stewart skips merrily over the Scripture portion of the discussion.  In contrast, as noted above, James actually skips over Paul and Barnabas’ accounts.  Moreover, “Malachi”/Stewart uses the word “circumcision” in his conclusion, but James does not and the whole church at Jerusalem does not.  The only time it even appears in the official letter is in the description provided by the Judaizers:

Acts 15:19-29

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner;

The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, “Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law:” to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

So, marvelously, this word that it was supposedly so important to find in Amos doesn’t get mentioned in the James’ conclusion or that of the official letter.  The reason, of course, is that just as I noted above, the issue was really over whether the Gentiles had to become Jews.

Recall the way that Paul put the debate in Galatians:

Galatians 2:14  But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Likewise, look at the summary in Acts 21:

Act 21:20-26

And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Notice, again, the summary of what the official letter said does not even mention circumcision as such.  The question is more broadly whether they need to follow the law, that is, be and live like Jews.

As for the specific line, “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us,” it seems Mr. Stewart supposes that this is a claim that the church at Jerusalem was inspired, but there are two more reasonable explanations.  First, the Scripture itself is the product of the Holy Ghost.  He inspired it, and he prophesied what would occur.  Second, and perhaps more accurately, the Holy Ghost came upon the Gentiles and give them the miraculous and extraordinary sign gifts while they were still Gentiles.  Moreover, the Holy Ghost came to Peter in a vision and informed that he was free to eat unclean meat, immediately before the group from the gentile, Cornelius, arrived.

III. What was the Tradition of Men here?

The unauthorized tradition, the tradition of men, was the tradition of the Judaizers.  Remember what the official letter said: “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, “Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law:” to whom we gave no such commandment.”  This error was then corrected with Scripture.

Thus, while Stewart’s dialog was mockingly titled, ironically, it was an accurate description of the case.

IV. Is the Acts 15 Assembly Normative of Anything?

A. Who constituted the assembly?

The assembly in Acts 15 was not only the apostles, but also the local elders from the Jerusalem church and the brethren there as well.  For note:

Acts 15:22-23
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

B. What issued from the assembly and who was “bound” by it?

The assembly issued a letter that was not directed to “the whole church of Jesus Christ” but rather to a specific group of Christians in a specific geographic area, and only to the Gentile Christians of that group.  Recall:

Acts 15:23  And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

So, what came out was a letter that was written to a particular group of Gentiles living in particular geographic areas.  If this were a papal decree, it wouldn’t meet the criteria for being “ex cathedra” because it not intended to bind the whole church.

C. Any appeal to their own authority?

The gist of their letter was one of disavowing the claim that they had issued a command that the Gentiles must become Jews.  “We never said that, and we’re not going to” was the point of the letter.  While there is no doubt that the apostles had a lot of authority in the church, there is no appeal to, “We the united apostles have agreed …” but rather, as noted above, the point was to disclaim the notion that anyone in Jerusalem had any such tradition on divine authority.  So, you might say that there was some appeal to authority, but there was no clear indication that the authority sprang from the fact that the meeting was an “ecumenical council” or anything of that sort.

Indeed, further to (A) above, the church of Antioch etc. did not participate in the council, which is why the church at Jerusalem sent back “chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These were sent as witnesses, so that the people at Antioch could be sure that the apostles in Jerusalem really hadn’t issued the command attributed to them by the Judaizers.

D.  Who called the assembly?

No emperor or bishop of Rome called the assembly, of course.  Instead, the folks at Antioch were so troubled by the dissension over the topic that they sent to Jerusalem, the place from which the Judaizers had come (as can be seen both in Galatians 2 and Acts 15).

V. Implications for Rome’s Ecclesiology?

What (as my brother, James White, recently discussed) are the implications that Mr. Stewart wants us to take away regarding his own church?  Does he want us to think that the bishops of his church are apostles and prophets with the extraordinary gifts like Peter, Paul, and others at that assembly were?  Does he want us to think that the bishops of Rome get visions like Peter received?  How is the assembly at Acts 15 supposed to “cash out” when you turn to Rome?  These are questions that it seems Mr. Stewart has not thought carefully about.  And the killer question is – why would we treat with equal or greater respect a council of men who don’t have extraordinary experiences, the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and the in-person instruction of Jesus as compared to a council of men that all those things?  There’s no compelling answer that can be given. Peter and Paul had the Holy Spirit in a way that, quite obviously, no one has today.  Their extraordinary gifts testified to their authority – but what testifies to the authority of the Roman bishop?

VI. What if the Point is Just that Private Judgment is Bunk?

An alternative reading of Stewart’s dialog is just as a general mockery of private judgment. At the end of the dialog, Stewart has his Judaizers saying this:

Malachi: “I know. So, what are we going to do? My heart sank the moment I heard the ruling.”
Phineas: “We must do the only thing we can do. The thing God wants us to do. We must reason with them from the Scriptures and demonstrate what the divinely inspired writings clearly teach on this matter. We have to show them they’ve made a grave error. You well know you can’t be a follower of the Lord and remain uncircumcised. This is serious. An uncircumcised person is destined for destruction. The Lord’s wrath burned against Moses’ for neglecting the covenantal sign, as I’m sure you remember.”
Malachi: “I do. What if they don’t reverse their decision? I began thinking about that possibility.”
Phineas: “I’m hopeful they’ll come around. After all, they are Jesus’ apostles, which means they learned first hand that Jesus didn’t come to abrogate the law but to fulfill it, and that our Lord himself was circumcised. They themselves bear the mark of the covenant in their bodies, after all!”
Malachi: “But let’s say they don’t agree with us? What if they don’t agree with the Scriptures?”
Phineas: “Well, then, as much as I hate to say it, we’ll have to separate from them and organize churches that are faithful to the Scriptures and our most ancient faith as it was taught by Jesus. God has spoken in the Scriptures and so we will take our stand on the Scriptures. No man or group of men has the authority to set aside what God commands in his holy Word. We have to obey God rather than men. You never know, if we do have to separate, maybe our example of faithfulness to the Word of God will bring them back to the truth.”

The focus of this dialog seems to be on trying to illustrate what Stewart sees as a Sola Scriptura mindset.  But the problem is not with the principle of Sola Scriptura, but rather with Stewart’s understanding of Scripture.  We have already provided some examples of Stewart’s exegetical frailty above, but there is more in this section.

The idea that “an uncircumcised person is destined for destruction” does not reflect the text of Scripture.  Recall that before Abraham’s circumcision, it is written:

Genesis 15:6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Moreover, consider all those who believed from Adam, Abel, and Enoch down to the family of Abraham and Melchizedek.  They were uncircumcised, but they were not “destined for destruction.”  (Oh, and don’t forget about – you know –  I hate to have to even mention this – but every woman)  Stewart seems to have imposed his misunderstanding of the nature of baptism back into the Old Testament.  Circumcision, like Baptism, was not what saved anyone.  People are saved by grace through faith. Adam and Abel were saved the same way Abraham was, and we are saved the same way as well – though with clearer vision than they had.

But let’s set aside Stewart’s exegetical failures.  What if fundamentally people cannot understand what Scripture is saying?  Then, of course, Stewart’s whole case falls apart.  After all, if people fundamentally can’t understand what Scripture is saying, it is pure hubris to suppose that they understand what Stewart himself is saying.  Moreover, of course, if they can’t understand what Scripture is saying, then Stewart himself (as one of “people”) also cannot understand.  Moreover, to make matters worse – not only is Stewart acting as though he thinks he understands Acts 15, through his mocking dialog, he is suggesting that he thinks others may also be able to understand Acts 15.  But if private judgment is bunk – this is all a tremendous waste of time.

VII. Was a Council needed to Settle a Disagreement Between Peter, Paul, and putatively James?

This is really related to the earlier question about the impact on Stewart’s ecclesiology.  Recall that, per Galatians, in this dispute at Antioch, Paul opposed Peter to his face.  Recall:

Galatians 2:11-14 

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

And:

Acts 15:1-2 

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

Clearly, Peter came around to Paul’s way of thinking, but they didn’t just settle the matter at Antioch.  They went back to James.  When they got there, they found a “sect of the Pharisees” that taught the circumcision was required (oh, how early heresies started to creep in!), but James denied having commanded that the Gentiles must be circumcised and obey the law of Moses.

Still, at the time in Antioch, Paul withstood Peter to Peter’s face.  Why couldn’t Paul just obey what the “pope” said if that’s what Peter was?  Moreover, why were not the folks at Antioch satisfied by Paul’s authority?  The reason was James and his apparent authority, and the implicit suggestion that this was a teaching that had been handed down.

VIII. What might one to do avoid this problem?

Suppose that you were an apostle in charge of Christianity.  Seeing the problems that can arise from fake oral tradition (the Judaizers really did have contact with the apostle James). What might you do, knowing that you and the other apostles were going to die, that persecution would prevent any effective central control for a century or more, and knowing that there would be false teachers and heretics who would arise?  One approach you might take is to leave behind writings that capture the actual teachings of Jesus and the apostles, so that people could refer to them when questions arose.  In fact, this is what God provided for us, notwithstanding the mockery of Stewart and others.

– TurretinFan

Post Script

Having written the above (well, much of it – I went back and altered a few points later), I reviewed the comment box.  There, I found Stewart commenting:

Whatever old covenant texts the Council may have considered, the final rationale for the Gentile exemption is given in the bare statement: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us…” Note well that St. James isn’t basing the Council’s decision on Amos 9:11, 12. Instead, and contrary to what one would expect if Scripture alone is the final authority, the prophet Amos is produced simply as a scriptural witness agreeing with the apostolic ruling. Mark carefully the order – the prophet agrees with the Council’s conclusion, not the other way around.

Stewart should read more carefully. James pronounces a sentence, and only after that does the assembly agree.  His reference to Scripture is part of his rationale.  What Scripture agrees with (and confirms) is the Apostles’ experience, not the other way ’round.  The comment continued:

In addition, the old covenant Scriptures never give the slightest inkling that God will one day sheath the knife of circumcision. A.D. 49 is the first time this teaching is promulgated to God’s people. 

 This is simply a sad reflection on Stewart’s inability to understand Amos 9:11-12, and his apparent lack of awareness regarding the other Scriptures (see the examples provided above in section I).

Stewart additionally commented:

One more thing….
How loud must the Holy Spirit increase the volume of the text before readers hear the obvious importance of St. Peter’s presence in Acts 15? His statements and reasonings dominate the chapter. St. James makes his final appeal in reference to Simon’s (Peter’s) words before citing the witness of Amos, and concluding by crafting a conciliar statement that encapsulated the Council’s mind (motivated as it was by Peter) on the matter of Gentile circumcision. St. Peter is the man at the Jerusalem Council. The ecclesial spotlight is on him.

Peter’s statements/reasonings occupy five verses.  They are important, and James does mention them.  But they hardly dominate the chapter. 

What dominates the chapter is Paul.  Paul is the champion of the faith in vs. 2.  The church at Antioch (which included Peter, see Galatians 2) sends Paul and others to Jerusalem to hash it out with James (the people from whom the Judeans had come, see Galatians 2).  In verse 3, on the way to Jerusalem, Paul declares the conversion of the Gentiles and gets a great reception.  In verse 4, Paul and company (Peter or the fact that he was in Antioch and came along to Jerusalem isn’t even mentioned) are received by the apostles.  After Peter makes his five-verse speech, it’s not over.  Paul then gives an account of his experiences (vs. 12).  Paul makes the list of people to go back to Antioch with the news (vs. 22) and because he was already known as the champion of this position, they send men with him.  Paul gets called “beloved” in the letter (vs. 25) and Peter isn’t even mentioned in the letter (except under the general grouping of “apostles”).  And I could go on, but the rest of the chapter is also Paul, Paul, and more Paul.  In fact, of course, the chapter divisions are not original, and Paul dominates this whole section of Acts.

Not to mention, of course, that when it comes time to actually make a decision, while Peter is first to say something memorable (isn’t he always?), James is last.  It is James whose final word becomes, in effect, the word of the whole group.  In the assembly itself, even though Peter may talk more, the focus is on James and his decision.

So, Peter doesn’t dominate either the chapter or the council.  Peter is not unimportant (he’s the third most important person – tied with Barnabas), but calling him “the man” just displays Stewart’s prejudice to think too highly of him.

Here are Peter’s statements and reasonings:

Acts 15:7-11 

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Notice that Simon (“the man”) Peter doesn’t mention the word circumcision.  The “yoke” he mentions is not circumcision (they and their fathers did bear that yoke) but the whole ceremonial law.  If only Stewart would pay attention to “the man” he might figure out why Amos 9:11-12 are relevant.  As Peter explains, the Gentiles were saved by faith without having been circumcised.  The evidence is the “gift of the Holy Ghost” (namely the miraculous sign gifts).  They received that, while still Gentiles.

Also, if Stewart were paying more attention to “the man” he would notice that it is “faith alone” that Peter is teaching as the instrumental means of salvation.  It’s not as well developed as Paul’s discussion in the epistles, but it is there nonetheless.

Furthermore, as well, “the man” that Stewart lavishes with excessive praise is teaching another important doctrine: grace alone. Notice, indeed, that Peter recognizes that it is through and not through meritorious works that both the Jews and Gentiles are saved.  The Jews could not merit salvation through works and the Gentiles cannot either.  Again, see Paul’s epistles for a more full discussion.

Considering that this part of the passage “dominates” (per Stewart) one might wish that the doctrines and faith of Peter would dominate Stewart’s mind – instead of encouraging him to impose the papacy anachronistically onto the passage.

As to the notion that James and Jerusalem in Acts 15 contradict the claims of Roman primacy….
St. James’ conclusion to the deliberations harmonizes naturally with his pastoral role as Bishop of Jerusalem. He is simply acting as the resident Shepherd of the city and host of the Council. And, of course, Roman primacy was years away as Peter had not yet established his See in that city.

None of this, of course, has any legitimate basis in the text (we can talk about its very questionable basis in tradition another time).  Moreover, why would the “resident Shepherd of the city” pronounce the judgment of the assembly?  Why wouldn’t that be the “pope”‘s role?  This isn’t just an appeal to questionable traditions, it’s a blindingly ad hoc appeal to them. 

Later, we find another comment from Stewart:

Can you please locate one passage or verse in the OT that indicates circumcision (an Abrahamic institution, btw) will cease as a requirement for the Lord’s people? Given the Protestant belief in the perspicuity of Scripture, I would imagine finding something will be relatively easy.

Is Stewart really this unfamiliar with the doctrine of perspicuity?  That doctrine does not say that every doctrine is plainly taught in Scripture, but only that the necessary doctrines are plainly taught.  Moreover, it is self-evidently clear that circumcision cannot be required for salvation, at least from the fact that women cannot be circumcised.  Moreover, as already abundantly explained above, Amos 9:11-12 is precisely that passage, and that’s just the reason that James quoted it.

– TurretinFan

Is Charity a Means to Salvation?

February 10, 2012

Does the Pope teach works salvation?  The Vatican Information Service capsulized one of his recent talks under the heading, “POPE’S LENTEN MESSAGE: CHARITY AS A MEANS TO SALVATION,” but perhaps more significantly consider his own words, as provided by VIS:

All of us have received spiritual or material riches meant to be used for the fulfilment of God’s plan, for the good of the Church and for our personal salvation.

(Benedict XVI via Vatican Information Service, 7 February 2012)

By contrast, we believe that salvation is entirely of the Lord.  We teach that it is all of God.  God is both the author and finisher of our salvation. 

Hebrews 12:2  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 1:6  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Christ is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end:

Revelation 1:8  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

Don’t get me wrong. Good works are important, as the pope quoted, the Scriptures say:

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

Yet it is not by those works that we are saved. As it is written:

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Ephesians 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Amen, and praise the Lord for his mercy and grace, which endure forever.

-TurretinFan

>The real Francis Turretin on: Salvation of the Old Testament Saints by Grace through Faith

July 6, 2009

>Martin Downes, at Against Heresies, has posted some interesting thoughts from the real Francis Turretin on the fact that the Old Testaments saints were saved by grace through faith in Christ
(link).

I hope it’s edifying!

-TurretinFan

Fishers of Men

July 19, 2008

I couldn’t help but smile at this lovely feel-good news story about a river rescue (link). At the same time it reminded me of the Biblical analogy between fishing and evangelism.

We need to be careful, of course, to remember that we do not fish with a baited (or lured) hook, but with a net. Recall the experience of the disciples who were fishing all night and caught nothing, but when they obeyed God’s instruction and fished on the other side of their boat, they got a massive haul?

Evangelizing can be like that. When God chooses to put fish in the net, he does so. We do our duty: we put the nets in the water, but God brings in the harvest of fishes. Sometimes it is a slow night, other times it is a busy morning.

But there is another application of the analogy. Sometimes we hear non-Calvinists suggest that man is drowning in a river, and God throws him a life preserver. Let me suggest that if God wanted to, God could pull him in with hook and line, like the fisherman in the story above. If God wants to save a man, nothing – not even a little bit of foolish flailing on the part of a spiritual flounder is going to stop that.

Even more amazingly, God can do so with means such as a hook that fights the will of the fish, but rather by changing the will of the fish so that he loves the net. Speaking for myself, I’ve been netted by the Lord, and I’ve never been happier. I’m his willing slave, who delights to be in the house of the Lord.

Praise be to that greater Fisher, for whom we are under-fishers,

-TurretinFan

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.

Nevertheless,

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,

-Turretinfan

Monergism vs. Synergism Discussion

February 16, 2008

In the video below, Dr. James White discusses monergist salvation with a synergist.

http://www.youtube.com/v/iZYKJPfSXAY&rel=1

I mostly agree with Dr. White’s answers. However, as to the answer regarding the burning house, I’d have something else to say.

The analogy about the burning house is inaccurate, because the synergist does not assert that total passivity is the way that man is rescued from sin. Instead, the synergist asserts that man cooperates with God in order to be saved.

In other words, the situation is more like people hearing the voice of the fire marshall sounding through the smoky haze and some carefully follow his instructions and escape, and others ignore his instructions and perish.

Still, one might ask, do those who escape have any ground for boasting?

The intuitive answer is “no,” but it is important to understand why that is.

Imagine there is no fire marshall at all. Some manage to escape the fire by strenuously exerting themselves to escape the blaze, and others die because they make bad attempts.

No, again, one might, do those who escape have any ground for boasting?

I still think the intuitive answer is “no,” even though in this instance their salvation from the fire is entirely their own work. We wouldn’t think people who bragged about how they escaped when others perished to be very nice people.

So, perhaps that’s not quite what we mean by boasting. In other words, maybe what we mean by boasting is having any part in the credit for our salvation. In the last case, the escapees clearly can take credit. They used their wits or their muscles, or just their bravery to escape the fire.

But when we then reflect that back to the middle analogy where people cooperate with the fire marshall, we see that again those who are saved are those who are more obedient, more attentive, or have the good judgment to listen when others try to find their own way out. While they cannot take all the credit for their escape, it is a difference between them and the others that is the critical reason why they are saved and the others are not.

Even so in synergistic salvation. In synergistic salvation, man gets some of the credit, because man does some of the work. This detracts from the glory of God and contradicts Scripture. The former reason is enough to make the doctrine suspect, but the latter is the reason we reject synergism.

Scripture says:

Romans 3:24-28
24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Praise be to the God who Justifies!

-Turretinfan

Did Trent Embrace Sola Gratia?

February 2, 2008

In the session on Justification, Trent writes:
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.

Notice the key word there “co-operates.” That means man acting with God. It is a denial of monergism and a denial of sola gratia.

And we are not stuck alone with Trent’s fourth canon, for the same thought is expressed:

CHAPTER V. On the necessity, in adults, of preparation for Justification, and whence it proceeds. The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.

Notice the key words (for our consideration): “they … may be disposed through … grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace….”

This is a rather clear denial of salvation by grace alone. Thus, the answer to the title question is a resounding NO!

Trent is not, however, advocating Pelagianism. Trent is not making an assertion that grace is unnecessary. The paragraph insists on the essential presence of grace. That is very good. It is laudable that Trent did not teach Pelagianism.

Nevertheless, Trent does not teach salvation by grace alone. If one recognizes that Scripture teaches salvation by grace alone, one needs to make a decision:

1. Either believe Scripture’s testimony, or
2. Believe Trent’s testimony.

The former way is the way of the Reformers, and the latter way must be the way of any consistent Catholic. Now, note: I have not, in this post, shown that Scripture teaches that salvation is by grace alone. If I were debating the matter of what Scripture teaches, I would want to address that issue.

Instead, I am simply addressing in this post what Rome teaches. Why would I do that? I would do that because there are certain men out there in the Internet who would like people to believe that Rome teaches salvation by grace alone.

And guess what: you can find statements praising the phrase “sola gratia” from places like the Vatican’s official web site. There is a modicum of veracity to such a claim. However, given what Trent dogmatically defines:

1) Either the Vatican’s official web site (and the people speaking through it) mean something different by “sola gratia” than monergism (i.e. they are, in effect, equivocating); or
2) Even the pope makes mistakes, and an affirmation of sola gratia (the teaching that men are saved by grace alone, and not at all in any way by human merit) is necessarily a mistake because it conflicts with Trent’s teaching on justification.

In other words, Trent as a putatively ecumenical council (though dominated by Italian and Spanish bishops, and devoid of Reformed and Orthodox bishops) has greater ecclesiastical authority than anything one can find in speeches made by modern ecumenical bishops, archbishops, cardinals, or even popes.

If this were a card game, Trent is a trump card, beating out even such “official” documents as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and – of course – beating out the writings of Internet apologists.

Catholics: you’re stuck with Trent. You cannot change it. You cannot ignore it. If you want to be Catholic, you have to agree with Trent.

Objections:
I’m bound to hear the objection that I simply don’t understand Trent. Why am I so sure that I’ll hear that objection? Because it is the same tired objection I hear every time a Catholic person disagrees with me about Catholic doctrine, or a Mormon person disagrees with me about Mormon doctrine (though substitute “Book of Abraham” for “Trent”), or an Orthodox person disagrees with me about Orthodox doctrine (though substitute “Chrysostom” for “Trent”) etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. I’ve already blogged about this syndrome elsewhere (link). It’s a self-defeating argument for those that deny sola scriptura on the allegation that scripture is inscrutable.

But, to be clear, let me point out that at least some Catholics agree with me that Catholic doctrine rejects the Reformed doctrine of sola gratia: Prof. Dr. Josef Seifert, Rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein, internationally acclaimed philosopher, and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Dr. William Marshner, chairman of the Theology Department at Christendom College (pointing out that “sola gratia” can only accepted by Catholics with respect to initiation towards justification).

Why then do we also see Catholics, like Mark Brumley (link) suggesting that the Reformation was right about sola gratia? The most charitable answer is that the matter is clear from Scripture, and consequently it is hard to try to continue to deny its truth. Christians realize that Scripture is the ultimate infallible authority we have today, supreme over Trent and over anything anyone’s religious leaders may say. If Scripture says it, we must believe it, and if Trent disagrees, the worse for Trent.

And, of course, to reject Trent is to cease to be Catholic.

May God give Christians wisdom to accept the truth of sola gratia,

-Turretinfan

UPDATE: Apparently at least one thing was not clear from the post above. If one defines “sola gratia” to mean something other than monergism, then of course Trent can be made to accommodate “sola gratia” under that different definition. In fact, one can assert that the RCC teaches “sola scriptura” as well, as long as one is careful to redefine sola scriptura to mean something other than what the Reformers meant by it.

Comments by a Romanist, "Fred," Responded to

May 28, 2007
Response to Fred’s Comments

Fred, who holds himself out as though he were a Roman Catholic, has posted comments on an earlier post. Since they have relatively little to do with the main point of that post (that Prof. Beckwith’s religious views were revealed by Dr. White), and since Fred has chosen to present rather lengthy comments, I’ve provided a separate post to address them.

Hello again! Fred here.
You say: I’m surprised you would choose to continue this demonstration.

Why? I’m surprised that you would be surprised :-) You have said nothing by way of an actual demonstration up to now, and it remains to be seen whether you could win the debate or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could do so, though such a victory obviously would have no bearing on whether you are actually correct about some things (including especially our points of disagreement).

Unfortunately, it appears that we will not have the opportunity to find that out. My vacation ends tonight, and with it will end any serious likelihood of me having time for this stuff (I almost never enter get involved in Internet debates). :-( In retrospect, given the constraints on my time I shouldn’t have even replied in the first place, but that’s water under the bridge now.

You say:
Legalism => Salvation by works
Denial of Sola Fide => Salvation by works
ergo
Denial of Sola Fide => Legalism

I’ll grant you the first as a definitional statement. But the second is pure assertion. It is by no means the case that to deny sola fide is *necessarily* to affirm salvation by works. For the Pelagian, sure. Not for the Catholic, who says that by His grace God enables us to obey Him: “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” For the Catholic, saved by Christ’s work of atonement in sacrificing Himself on the cross, good works are something that he does in response to and as a consequence of the fact that he has been saved. In no way do they supplant Christ’s sacrifice. In point of fact, this is not so very different from the Reformed perspective on works.

In sum: it is simply not the case that the *only* alternative to sola fide is works salvation. This is pure tommyrot: it’s a Protestant article of faith, but it’s no less mistaken for all that.

But I must ask you: if you really believe in salvation by faith alone, may an unrepentant adulterer who trusts in Christ get to heaven or not? If you say yes, then you have contradicted Gal. 5:19-21. If you say no (as I hope and expect you do), then immediately it becomes obvious that what we Christians do matters. We cannot live as we wish. We are obliged to obey God.

Most likely you will insist that such a man hasn’t really trusted in Christ. To that I would respond: who are you to judge the condition of his faith? I certainly agree with you that he will not be saved unless he repents, but I would never presume to judge his faith. I do not know his heart.

Truly it seems to me that in large measure the quarrel between the Reformed and Catholics comes down to a question of assurance: you must insist upon sola fide because without it, your insistence upon 100% assurance of salvation dries up and blows away.Unfortunately, I don’t see how this notion of 100% assurance can be maintained in the light of the following (among other things that might be said):

1) In Deut. 7, God says of Israel that he chose them and loved them: in other words, they were his elect. And yet many of the elect fell. Letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it seems unreasonable to insist being “elect” in the NT differs so dramatically from being “chosen” in the OT as to reduce the latter to … something of virtually no force.

2) The parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25:31-46), where the two are judged *not* on the basis of the quality of their faith, but on the basis of what they *did*.

3) The Last Judgment (Rev. 20), where men are judged “according to their works.”

4) St. Paul writes to the *faithful* believers at Philippi: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Php. 2:12; even more interesting is v. 13, which confirms the Catholic doctrine that God enables us to obey him by his grace, so that we have no grounds for boasting). Why, if someone is saved by “faith alone”, would he need to “work out” his salvation, and why, if his salvation is 100% assured, would he need to do this with “fear and trembling”???

5) Why would Hebrews sternly warn us, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, who have both tasted the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit, who have moreover tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and then have fallen away, to be renewed again to repentance; since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and make him a mockery” (Heb. 6:4-6)?? It is not credible even to suggest that this is merely hypothetical. It’s not credible, either, to pretend that genuine Christians are not the subject of the warning (what pseudo-Christian ever became a partaker of the Holy Spirit??).

You say: Salvation by cooperation with grace, is not the same thing as salvation by grace.

If the cooperation with grace is *itself* enabled by grace, it most certainly is the same thing. If I am unable to cooperate with God’s grace until and unless God’s grace enables me to do so, then the whole matter is entirely one of God’s grace from start to finish.

Truly, it’s remarkable that we Catholics can deny up and down that we believe in salvation by works, and we can insist until we’re blue in the face that we’re saved by grace, and yet you will still have the temerity to deny that we say that, and to insist that we’re legalists.

You say: Did I accuse him of dishonesty? Did I say he lied? I don’t recall saying that. He just concealed the truth.

Concealing a truth one is obligated to reveal is dishonest, as you know very well. So, of course, you did accuse him of this. And of course, as he has already made clear, he *considered* not making his reversion known: a course he did not ultimately pursue (even before it was made public), as he has written. I would only add that it’s not at all clear that honesty obliges one to instantaneous action under the circumstances, so I’m not prepared to condemn him for his hesitation. Most importantly, it is clear that the ETS Board appears (according to its statement) to have no issues with the way that Dr. Beckwith has conducted himself. So what you and I think about the matter is really unimportant.

You write: Your claim of “balderdash” is contradicted by the Holy Spirit at the pen of Paul in Romans, particularly the fourth chapter.

Your “rebuttal” is contradicted by the Holy Spirit at the pen of St. James, particularly the second chapter.

You say: Your laughter regarding God’s gracious restraint of the evil of men, including Roman Catholics, does not mean that the answer does not answer the question. Nevertheless, to be clear, only Christ was sinless, as Scripture says.

LOL again!! Let me refresh your memory as to the original question here, since it appears that you have forgotten: “Or maybe it’s just that he thinks Catholics are evil no matter what they believe or do?”Such a question requires a “yes” or “no”, not a theological discourse on whether God restrains the evil deeds of Reformed Presbyterians and all other men or not, and not a mention (important, but in the present context irrelevant) of the sinlessness of Christ.

Truly, I’m a bit surprised by your handling of this question. It was pretty obviously (for the most part, or so I thought) a rhetorical device, but you seem to be choking on it in your evasions of a simple yes or no. So now I’d really like to know the answer: Do you consider Catholics to be evil no matter what they do or believe? Yes or no?

I respond:

I’ll reply on a chunk-by-chunk basis.

Fred wrote:

You say: I’m surprised you would choose to continue this demonstration.

Why? I’m surprised that you would be surprised :-) You have said nothing by way of an actual demonstration up to now, and it remains to be seen whether you could win the debate or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could do so, though such a victory obviously would have no bearing on whether you are actually correct about some things (including especially our points of disagreement).

I reply:

I think a fair paraphrase of your comments are: “You could win the debate, but I’m still correct.” Suffice to say that few will be persuaded by your bare assertion.

Fred wrote:

Unfortunately, it appears that we will not have the opportunity to find that out. My vacation ends tonight, and with it will end any serious likelihood of me having time for this stuff (I almost never enter get involved in Internet debates). :-( In retrospect, given the constraints on my time I shouldn’t have even replied in the first place, but that’s water under the bridge now.

I reply:

At least that will bring the discussion to a conclusion. Debates without a thesis tend to go on indefinitely.

Fred wrote:

You say:
Legalism => Salvation by works
Denial of Sola Fide => Salvation by works
ergo
Denial of Sola Fide => Legalism

I’ll grant you the first as a definitional statement. But the second is pure assertion. It is by no means the case that to deny sola fide is *necessarily* to affirm salvation by works. For the Pelagian, sure. Not for the Catholic, who says that by His grace God enables us to obey Him: “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” For the Catholic, saved by Christ’s work of atonement in sacrificing Himself on the cross, good works are something that he does in response to and as a consequence of the fact that he has been saved. In no way do they supplant Christ’s sacrifice. In point of fact, this is not so very different from the Reformed perspective on works.

In sum: it is simply not the case that the *only* alternative to sola fide is works salvation. This is pure tommyrot: it’s a Protestant article of faith, but it’s no less mistaken for all that.

I respond:

Contrary to your assertion, the Papist view of works is quite different from the Reformed perspective on works, hence the perceived need for Trent’s dogmatic definitions.

The crux of your argument above is your assertion that not every denial of Sola Fide entails salvation by works. This is an incorrect assertion on your part.

That it is incorrect can be summarily seen in Galatians, second chapeter. For example:

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Faith alone is contrasted with human obedience. The “salvation” Rome offers is conditional on obedience. It is something that has to be earned, despite the protestations of some of its advocates.

And that’s only the “salvation” offered to the “faithful” from eternal damnation. Salvation from “temporal punishment,” is even more explicitly works-based in Roman Catholicism.

Fred wrote:

In sum: it is simply not the case that the *only* alternative to sola fide is works salvation. This is pure tommyrot: it’s a Protestant article of faith, but it’s no less mistaken for all that.

I reply:
Ah, but it is the only alternative, as per Paul’s epistles. Calling the position “pure tommyrot” only shows your dislike of the position.

Fred wrote:

But I must ask you: if you really believe in salvation by faith alone, may an unrepentant adulterer who trusts in Christ get to heaven or not? If you say yes, then you have contradicted Gal. 5:19-21. If you say no (as I hope and expect you do), then immediately it becomes obvious that what we Christians do matters. We cannot live as we wish. We are obliged to obey God.

I reply:

Let’s see whether Galatians 5:19-21 says a whisper about unrepentance:

Galatians 5:19-21
19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

No, it does not say anything about unrepentance, and it has nothing to do with repentance or lack thereof.

And the totally separate answer to your question is that, because salvation is not based on the thoroughness of one’s repentance, one may enter the kingdom of God without having repented of a specific particular sin, including an act of adultery. Anyone who has been regenerated will repent of his sins, but he may not catch every last sin, and he won’t go to hell just because his repentance was not as thorough as a Roman Catholic would like it to be.

Fred wrote:

Most likely you will insist that such a man hasn’t really trusted in Christ. To that I would respond: who are you to judge the condition of his faith? I certainly agree with you that he will not be saved unless he repents, but I would never presume to judge his faith. I do not know his heart.

I reply:

Perhaps then you are surprised at the real answer. But, in any event, judging the heart of a hypothetical person is hardly presumptuous.

Fred wrote:

Truly it seems to me that in large measure the quarrel between the Reformed and Catholics comes down to a question of assurance: you must insist upon sola fide because without it, your insistence upon 100% assurance of salvation dries up and blows away.Unfortunately, I don’t see how this notion of 100% assurance can be maintained in the light of the following (among other things that might be said):

I reply:

Before I get into the specific examples, a few general comments are in order. There are many quarrels between Reformed Christians and Roman Catholics. Personally, I think that the biggest quarrel is over the more recent Ecumenical Counsels of Rome, namely Vatican I and Vatican II. Most specifically, Muslims do not worship our God, and if Roman Catholics do (as Vatican II seems to pretty clearly state) then they both worship some other God than we do.

Sola Fide is an important difference between us and Rome, as is sola gratia and sola scriptura. The so-called five sola’s define many important points of distinction, and they are all Biblically driven.

Accordingly, your comment about 100% assurance is far off the mark. We leave open the possibility of self-deception, and we call believers to self-examination for that reason. Nevertheless, we have confidence and boldness because of our faith which is not alone. Indeed, because we believe what James and John wrote, we look to our works to provide us with assurance of salvation, and to serve as the basis for our consideration in self-examination.

Fred continued:

1) In Deut. 7, God says of Israel that he chose them and loved them: in other words, they were his elect. And yet many of the elect fell. Letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it seems unreasonable to insist being “elect” in the NT differs so dramatically from being “chosen” in the OT as to reduce the latter to … something of virtually no force.

I reply:

You’d have to be either utterly unfamiliar with history of the Old Testament to think that Israel did not receive a special degree of favor that was not accorded to the other nations. Furthermore, Old Testament Israel was chosen as a nation, which pictured the individual election to salvation, of all the sheep of our Shepherd.

Fred continued:

2) The parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25:31-46), where the two are judged *not* on the basis of the quality of their faith, but on the basis of what they *did*.

I reply:

You cannot be Roman Catholic and deny that salvation is by faith in view of Trent. To imagine that everyone has faith (such that both the sheep and the goats have faith) is bizarre and unintelligible. There are infidels, and Muslims are among them, as Christians have always believed (the Muslim detail obviously only came to be believed once there were Muslims).

Fred continued:

3) The Last Judgment (Rev. 20), where men are judged “according to their works.”

I reply:

I fully agree that men will be judged according to their works, and if their works are anything short of perfect they will merit eternal punishment. The only escape is to be judged according to Christ’s works: to have Him as your substitute. It is by the Substitionary Atonement of Christ that we escape judgment for our works.

Fred continued:

4) St. Paul writes to the *faithful* believers at Philippi: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Php. 2:12; even more interesting is v. 13, which confirms the Catholic doctrine that God enables us to obey him by his grace, so that we have no grounds for boasting). Why, if someone is saved by “faith alone”, would he need to “work out” his salvation, and why, if his salvation is 100% assured, would he need to do this with “fear and trembling”???

I reply:

You to seem imagine that Paul means that they should work in order to be saved, rather than the more natural sense that they should work because they are saved. Verse 13 does not confirm Semi-Pelegianism, it confirms Reformed Theology. It states:

Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

And Jerome, in the Vulgate translation confirms this view:

Philippians 2:13 (VUL) Deus est enim qui operatur in vobis et velle et perficere pro bona voluntate

Notice this is “in vobis” not “cum vobis.”

God does not work WITH us but IN us to do His pleasure. Thus, when we do good works, that is by His grace, as Augustine taught.

But you ask, (I paraphrase) “Why do that?”

The answer is found in verses 14-16, namely that by our works we provide light to the world.

Fred continued:

5) Why would Hebrews sternly warn us, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, who have both tasted the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit, who have moreover tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and then have fallen away, to be renewed again to repentance; since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and make him a mockery” (Heb. 6:4-6)?? It is not credible even to suggest that this is merely hypothetical. It’s not credible, either, to pretend that genuine Christians are not the subject of the warning (what pseudo-Christian ever became a partaker of the Holy Spirit??).

I reply:

I have dealt with that passage on other occassions, and there is no need to do so again here. It is sufficient to point out that whatever this is, it is not the saved again-lost again-saved again doctrine of works salvation accompanied by auricular confession and penance. For it is written of such people “it is impossible … to be renewed again to repentance.”

Fred continued:

You say: Salvation by cooperation with grace, is not the same thing as salvation by grace.

If the cooperation with grace is *itself* enabled by grace, it most certainly is the same thing. If I am unable to cooperate with God’s grace until and unless God’s grace enables me to do so, then the whole matter is entirely one of God’s grace from start to finish.

I reply:

And does the cooperation-enabling grace require cooperation, or is it only the later grace that requires cooperation? It’s a rhetorical question, because the concept of two stages of grace is unscriptural balderdash. In any event, however, since that cooperation-enabling grace does not save, it ought not to be counted when we are speaking of being “saved by grace,” and consequently cannot be appealled to in order to bolster a claim to salvation by grace. No, salvation by cooperation with grace is no more salvation by grace than cooperating with the water (swimming) can be characterized as salvation from drowning by lake. The lake didn’t save such a man, he saved himself by his cooperation with the lake.

Fred continued:

Truly, it’s remarkable that we Catholics can deny up and down that we believe in salvation by works, and we can insist until we’re blue in the face that we’re saved by grace, and yet you will still have the temerity to deny that we say that, and to insist that we’re legalists.

I reply:

We say what we say because it is the truth. Rome denies salvation by grace alone, by faith alone, because it denies the supreme authority of Scripture alone. Thus, Rome can make whatever conflicting claims it likes. It still teaches a legalistic salvation of adherence to the law as the path to heaven. It still denies that grace saves us, instead asserting (like the Protestant Arminians) that grace merely makes salvation a possibility. And consequently, the accusations of legalism and salvation by works (though not by works alone) sticks.

Fred continued:

You say: Did I accuse him of dishonesty? Did I say he lied? I don’t recall saying that. He just concealed the truth.

Concealing a truth one is obligated to reveal is dishonest, as you know very well. So, of course, you did accuse him of this. And of course, as he has already made clear, he *considered* not making his reversion known: a course he did not ultimately pursue (even before it was made public), as he has written. I would only add that it’s not at all clear that honesty obliges one to instantaneous action under the circumstances, so I’m not prepared to condemn him for his hesitation. Most importantly, it is clear that the ETS Board appears (according to its statement) to have no issues with the way that Dr. Beckwith has conducted himself. So what you and I think about the matter is really unimportant.

I reply:

I think you have essentially acknowledged that I did not directly accuse him of dishonesty. Did I claim that this was a situation in which Dr. Beckwith was under a moral obligation to reveal the the truth? Of course, again, the answer is no.

I hardly think that the ETS Board’s judgment affects the situation. He also did not notify them until after the fact.

You wrote: “a course he did not ultimately pursue,” but of course he did not have the option of persuing it becasue he was asked to serve in a role that he could only serve in as an open Roman Catholic. Even then, it is not clear that he intended his changed views to become public any time soon.

Fred continued:

You write: Your claim of “balderdash” is contradicted by the Holy Spirit at the pen of Paul in Romans, particularly the fourth chapter.

Your “rebuttal” is contradicted by the Holy Spirit at the pen of St. James, particularly the second chapter.

I reply:

James does not contradict Paul. James speaks of how we are justified in the eyes of men, and Paul in the eyes of God.

Fred continued:

You say: Your laughter regarding God’s gracious restraint of the evil of men, including Roman Catholics, does not mean that the answer does not answer the question. Nevertheless, to be clear, only Christ was sinless, as Scripture says.

LOL again!! Let me refresh your memory as to the original question here, since it appears that you have forgotten: “Or maybe it’s just that he thinks Catholics are evil no matter what they believe or do?”Such a question requires a “yes” or “no”, not a theological discourse on whether God restrains the evil deeds of Reformed Presbyterians and all other men or not, and not a mention (important, but in the present context irrelevant) of the sinlessness of Christ.

I reply:

Actually, a grandstanding, rhetorical question like that, does not require any answer. Nevertheless, clarification has been provided, and if the answer is still obscure, it is not the fault of the present author.

Fred continued:

Truly, I’m a bit surprised by your handling of this question. It was pretty obviously (for the most part, or so I thought) a rhetorical device, but you seem to be choking on it in your evasions of a simple yes or no. So now I’d really like to know the answer: Do you consider Catholics to be evil no matter what they do or believe? Yes or no?

I reply:

See above, but if you feel it has not been answered, please explain what you mean by “evil.” Do you mean that they sin like everyone else? Or do you mean that they commit genocide like Hitler with the Gypsies and Jews?

Explain yourself, Fred.

-Turretinfan


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