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".>> (http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2007/10/not-as-result-of-works.html#c8231394078286265019 .)

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: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3803/is_200704/ai_n19431969 .) 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,

David

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Polemics and False Dichotomies


Over the last few days, I have been reading the ongoing discussion (and occasionally participating) that was initiated with a post titled: “Cooperation In Salvation” (http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2007/09/cooperation-in-salvation.html ).

So much of the thread can be summed up by an insightful comment written by ‘Pontificator’, who earlier today said:

The problem is that "justification by faith" also serves as a polemical slogan around which opponents to the Catholic Church can unite. When the slogan is used this way, its theological meaning is lost. (See above thread.)
IMHO, one can state the “problem” in even simpler terms: FALSE DICHOTOMY.

A false dichotomy (also known as a false dilemma) occurs when two alternative statements are held to be the only possible options; but in reality, there exist one or more other options which have not been taken into account.

A classic example of the polemical use of false dichtomies is found in the writings of those who seek to “prove” that the Bible is full of “errors”. Such persons juxtipose dozens of Bibical texts claiming that such texts contradict each other, maintaining that each respective outcome is determined by but two alternative statements/verses. But, as all who engage in the defense of the Bible know, such “errors” can only be maintained by embracing false dichotomies.

Now, what I find interesting is that numerous anti-Catholics quite often employ the same methodology as the anti-Biblicists; many of their arguments are based on false dichotomies. Attempts by Catholic apologists to introduce other options into into their simple either/or conclusion/s are usually brushed aside, and ignored.

But there is hope. For instance, when certain Evangelical and Catholic scholars sat down together with the understanding that past polemics between the two sides may have involved false dichotomies, the end result was stunning, as attested to by the following documents:

http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=4454

http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=4454

[See also: Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and Your Word Is Truth, both edited by Charles Colson & Richard John Neuhaus.]

The same holds true when Lutheran and Catholic scholars convined together over many years, addressing several import issues, producing numerous important documents which include (some sites are mirrored):

http://www.prounione.urbe.it/document/_l_rc-sitemap.html

http://www.prounione.urbe.it/dia-int/l-rc/doc/i_l-rc_ocs.html

http://www.prounione.urbe.it/dia-int/l-rc/doc/i_l-rc_just.html

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/sub-index/index_lutheran-fed.htm

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html


One should also note the 10 volume Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue series, which includes the important volume on justification, Justification by Faith (vol. VII).


So there is hope my brothers and sisters in Christ. In ending, I shall ask that all of us should pray for the continuing work of the Holy Spirit on the hearts and minds of ALL believers in combating the numerous false dichotomies that have plagued, and continue to plague Christ’s Church.


Grace and peace,

David