Sunday, October 21, 2007

Answering Some Recent Charges

It has been 19 days since my last thread; I have been pretty much content with spending my ‘free’ time running on the beach, biking on our recently developed Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail, and reading and commenting over at the Beggars All blog . Since my last thread here at Articuli Fidei, the following threads, of particular interest to me, have been started at BA, producing comments in the hundreds:

Catholic Historian on Trent and Salvation ; Necessary for Salvation ; Trinity vs Assumption ; Double Standards, Presuppositions, and Determining Truth ; By Grace Alone is by Faith Alone ; and NOT as a result of works .

Some comments made in the last thread listed above have ‘inspired’ me to create this new thread. In response to combox posts made by Pontificator and myself, Carrie penned the following:

>>David: Salvation you see is through faith, the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Pont: Can the Catholic say that we are justified by faith alone? Sure, as long as we understand that faith includes love, which is the substance of trinitarian life.

The old Catholic consensus.

Of course I'll be told these answers are the same although they are not.

This is one of the most frustrating things in discussions with RCs - they all have their own version of Catholicism which they "tweak" to serve their purpose.

Now, Eph 2:8 still says we are saved by grace through faith, not "through faith with love" or "faith and baptism".>> ( .)

Carrie’s (a former Catholic, turned vocal anti-Catholic critic) response contains two errors and one half-truth, which I shall now comment on.

ERROR #1 – “Of course I’ll be told these answers are the same although they are not.”

Both Pontificator and myself are addressing ININTIAL JUSTIFICATION, which is received by faith. This justification includes regeneration (i.e. “the substance of trinitarian life”, “renewal by the Holy Spirit”, ‘born-again’, ‘adoption as Sons of God’, ‘partakers of the divine nature’, ‘new creation’, et al.), as well as the forgiveness of all past sins, and comes via the grace of baptism. Despite Carrie’s attempt to ‘poison-the-well’, an objective reading will yield no other conclusion than this: Pontificator and I have expressed the same thoughts in parallel terminology.

For supporting evidence that justification must include regeneration, I strongly urge my Protestant separated brethren to read the recently published essay, “Augustine and the Justification Debates”, from the Spring 2007, Trinity Journal. (Available online at: .) This essay is written by an Evangelical pastor, who not only has a very good knowledge of the Bible, but also of the teachings of St. Augustine.

ERROR #2 – “Now, Eph 2:8 still says we are saved by grace through faith, not ‘through faith with love’ or ‘faith and baptism’”.

Despite my October 2 thread on false dichotomies, Carrie marches forward with yet another false dichotomy in hand: the “faith” spoken of in Eph. 2:8 CAN ONLY mean “faith alone” (in the strict Protestant sense); no other option exists!

Carrie pushes aside Paul’s own commentary on how one is “saved”, which must be taken into consideration went dealing with the issue salvation and faith in Eph. 2:8:

“he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5 NRSV)

Interestingly enough, I provided this very same verse in my post that Carrie quoted from in her above response.
HALF-TRUTH #1 – “This is one of the most frustrating things in discussions with RCs - they all have their own version of Catholicism which they ‘tweak’ to serve their purpose.”

Catholic Christians are not robots; we are not “Borg”. We each have our own individual method of defending “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” But, with this said, one should never lose sight of the fact that we have a great Tradition to draw upon in our understanding of the Sacred Scriptures. We do not have to fight the battle of Arianism anew, we do not have to deal with many Christological errors, we do not have to debate the nature and subjects of baptism, the Eucharist, and so many other doctrines that have been clearly defined for the faithful. And lastly, we do not split over “non-essentials” as is the tragic historic scenario of our separated brethren.

Time to close for now. In the near future (the Lord willing), I shall begin a series of posts that shall explore the Scriptural and historical aspects of the complex doctrine which is termed justification.

Grace and peace,



Olivier said...

I've a question with that comment of the excellent Pontificator.

Pont: Can the Catholic say that we are justified by faith alone? Sure, as long as we understand that faith includes love, which is the substance of trinitarian life.

Hum, but don't we know from the council of Trent that faith strictly intended can subsist without charity ??

Anonymous said...

Hi Olivier,

You are correct about faith and charity but maybe forgetting that Pontificator and David claimed to be speaking exclusively of initial justification.

No one, if I understand them correctly, is claiming that Catholics teach strict sola fide, or salvation by faith without charity. Still, there may be a problem with claiming that one is initially justified by faith alone:

"If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will."

---Sixth Session, Canon 9, January 13, 1547

If Catholics would say that we believe in initial justification by faith alone, especially to Evangelicals, it would seem necessary to add the qualifiers in the minds of the Fathers in Canon 9. Most likely, an Evangelical will understand such justification by faith alone, as is permitted by Trent, to NOT be justification by faith alone.

Maybe this was already covered elsewhere, but since a Catholic version of initial justification by faith alone has been introduced here, maybe some repetition is in order.

Thanks to anyone who would correct Olivier and me on our possible misconceptions.


Anonymous said...

oh...I forgot to include above..."let him be anathema"...It seems to be a condemnation in Canon 9 of the Sixth Session of Trent, to teach an unqualified justification by faith alone.


David Waltz said...

Hello Oliver and Rory,

While we wait for the hopeful arrival of Pontificator, I would like to add a few thoughts on this matter from Avery (now Cardinal) Dulles:

Although faith without love has always been regarded as truncated (infomis), certain statements in Trent and the Catholic theological tradition could give the impression that faith and love are extrinsic to each other and that the former could be complete without the latter…

As Loius Bouyer points out, Luther himself understood faith as a loving response to the God who bestows his gifts upon. Comparing the doctrines of Aquinas and Luther, Otto Pesch contends that the latter, in rejecting fides caritate formata, misunderstood the Thomistic formula as though it meant that charity were something extrinsically added to faith. In reality, Pesch maintains, charity is an inner movement of living faith, and thus the Thomistic thesis that justifying faith must be enlivened by charity does not really contradict the Lutheran thesis of justification by faith alone. (Avery Dulles, “Justification In Contemporary Catholic Theology”, in Justification by Faith – Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, pp. 265, 266.)

I firmly believe that the issue at hand is not over the “alone” in the “faith alone” formula, but rather, it concerns what precisely is meant by “faith”.

Grace and peace,


Strider said...

I simply want to add my support to David's article and comments. He is quite right--we are both speaking of initial justification, i.e., that act of God by which we are introduced into a state of friendship with God with Christ in the Holy Spirit.

And here, I think, we need to distinguish between that initial faith that brings the adult convert to baptism and the supernatural virtue of faith by which the regenerate believer lives out his life in the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals do not distinguish the two, but I think Catholics do or at least may and should. I have found Newman helpful here. See his sermon "Faith the Title for Justification" and his lecture "The Office of Justifying Faith." I'm not sure how a more scholastic-minded Catholic would parse this, but I'm not a scholastic-minded Catholic. :-)

Traditionally, of course, Western theology has understood "faith" as assent to divine doctrine. When so defined, faith in itself cannot be justifying. Even the devils believe and tremble. Hence the Catholic will want to go on and speak of justifying faith as faith formed by love. Love here is not a work to be performed in order to earn God's love. Love is simply what is means to live in the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the absence of this love, we are alienated from God, i.e., we are in a state of sin.

Is this really so foreign to evangelical thought? Protestant polemicists would have us believe that it is; yet when one reads good Protestant theology (both Lutheran and Reformed), one discovers that Protestants also wrestle with the nature of faith. We are not justified by any ole faith. We are not justified by a dead faith or a historical faith. The Anglican Homilies, for example, speak of a "living faith." Richard Hooker says that love and hope are the "inseparable mates" to faith. John Calvin says that when we speak of justifying faith "we are not thinking of a dead faith, which worketh not by love, but holding faith to be the only cause of justification (Gal. 5:6; Rom. 3:22). It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone---we do not separate the whole grace of regeneration from faith, but claim the power and faculty of justifying entirely for faith, as we ought." Similarly Francis Turretin: "The question is not whether solitary faith, that is, separated from the other virtues, justifies, which we grant could not easily be the case, since it is not even true and living faith; but whether it alone concurs to the act of justification, which we assert: as the eye alone sees, but not when torn out of the body. Thus the particle alone does not modify the subject, but the predicate. That is, faith alone does not justify, but only faith justifies; the coexistence of love with faith in him who is justified is not denied, but its coefficiency or cooperation in justification."

Are not the two positions in fact quite close? What is the difference between saying that saving faith is formed by love and saying that saving faith is never alone? See my article on Richard Hooker (#XXXV in my justification collection) for my provisional reflections on this issue.

The evangelical is concerned to secure the gratuity of grace. This is the point of the sola fide. The Catholic shares this concern but secures it through the sacraments.

What do you think? Does this make sense?

Strider said...

BTW, Bryan Cross as some thoughtful thoughts about justifying faith over at Principium Unitatis.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank the Pontificator and David for their comments. I've
not time enough to give a thoughtful answer, sorry (neither to read the
suggestions, but I'll do it, thanks for them). I agree with Pont. there's
a question of words, but I think that, given the traditional comprehension
of faith, we should be cautious (and speak of "living faith" if we intend
it ? In the effective reception of baptism faith is necessarily living,
but not later...). If we can reduce the different on that with Protestants
to a question of words it will be great.

In fact I studied the Joint declaration on justification, which did a part
of this work, but I found it gravely lacunary (in facts the catholic
remarks added, claim that contradictions are resolved but don't say how...
and there's a complete absence of the - beautiful, I find - theology of
merit, indeed nearly diametrally opposed to Protestant thought.) Later I
discovered Cardinal Dulles became sceptical also.

Nevertheless I think this Declaration, and the ecumenical work done, has
been and will be helpful. What was lacking in the Declaration was a
precise definition of what justification is, and what it isn't. Catholics
can't admit there can be justification without
regeneration/sanctification, at least in their sense of the word
"justification". Maybe Protestants will agree it's never practically the
case (of justification in their sens without interior renewal).

Perhaps the existence of a remaining disagreement depends on their
insistence on their (absurd, I think, and totally unpatristic) concept of
forensic justification. Even trying to separate the act of justification
from the act of salvation (I'm not sure Protestants do. I learned (in a
book by Santogrossi, osb) about a Lutheran pastor who wrote to a catholic
one saying that he won't preach seriously a sinner in adultery because
Lutheran theology allows him to be saved granted that he "regrets" to
violate constantly and willingly the commandments of God... Absurd.), to
justify is to reconcile the sinner with God. But if I take a patristic
stance, the relation with God is the heart of our being. So to be
reconciled with Him is an ontological upheaval, miles away from something
forensic : we become children of God (somewhere Trent defines
justification by that passage). That's for the difference of meaning of
"justice". I still don't understand how they can say some one is just if
his soul isn't cleansed. But maybe progress can be done taking into
account what exactly they mean by justice and justification (maybe just
the removal of original sin ?).

Faith is the beginning and the root of justification, Catholics say it.
"Power", as say Calvin ? What does it mean ? Let's read Trent 36, ch. vii
: The efficience cause (of justification) is God and His grace,
instrumental cause the sacrament of baptism, sacrament of faith, and valid
only if there's faith (and faith strictly intended, in the traditional
Catholic manner). So I think, in the way of Turretin, we agree here, no ?

I need knowledge to continue efficiently, especially in Protestant
theology, but I would say in fact we say more than Protestants about faith
: we indeed say, if we include prevenant grace, and understand that faith
doesn't come without hope and charity, that faith is, with baptism, the
instrumental cause of justification (that's for clarifying the "by" of
justified by faith). But for us justification is much more, for it
includes us in Christ's body, make us a regenerated child of God, etc.
Maybe we disagree more on the nature than on the cause of justification
(but also of course on others factors in the process of salvation).

Sorry for length. Yours in Christ.