Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Earlier today, in the comments section of the “Did Thomas Aquinas embrace Sola Scriptura?” thread, Matt posted some cogent thoughts on the Robert Reymond article that I had linked to earlier. After typing up a brief response, I decided to pull Reymond’s, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, off of the shelf, and reread his section on justification (pages 739-756), for I had remembered that he had written some convoluted thoughts on the pre-Reformation theologians who did not embrace his understanding of justification by faith alone. The following is what he actually penned:
Finally, the Protestant doctrine calls into question the salvation of millions of Christians throughout history. This argument, made in our time even by some Protestants, against a rigid application of Protestantism’s doctrine of justification by faith alone contends that if God justifies only those who self-consciously renounce all reliance upon any and all works of righteousness which they have done or will ever do and trust in Christ’s vicarious cross work alone, then one much conclude that the vast majority of professing Christians throughout history were not and are not saved. This vast group would include, we are informed, such church fathers as Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas who as sacerdotalists believed in baptismal regeneration and, because they confused justification and sanctification, believed also in the necessity of deeds of penance for salvation. Against this Protestant rigidity it is urged that just as God predestinates by grace alone Arminians who have a faulty understanding of the of the doctrine of election, so too He justifies by faith alone Roman Catholics, among others, whose understanding of justification differs (that is, it does not affirm justification by “faith alone”) from classic Protestantism’s doctrine of justification.
This argument, however, is aimed not so much against Protestantism’s “rigidity” as it is against Paul’s insistence (1) that there is only one gospel—justification by faith alone in Christ’s work alone…(Pages 753, 754.)
In footnote #63 he references J. L. Neve’s, A History of Christian Thought, and comments that he:
…carefully documents in the Apostolic Fathers how quickly after the age of Paul—doubtless due to pagan and Jewish influences without and the tug of the Pelagian heart within—the emphasis of their preaching and writings fell more and more upon works and their merit and moralism. It is one of the saddest facts of church history that from the post-apostolic age onward the church fell more and more into serious soteriological error, with grace and faith given way to legalism and the doing of good works as the pronounced way of salvation. Only upon rare occasion, and not even fully in Augustine, was the voice of Paul clearly heard again before the sixteenth-century Reformation [note: he cites NO examples]. (Page 754.)
Reymond then concludes:
What I mean by this in the present context is that the clear teaching of the Word of God should be upheld and we should not look for reasons to avoid it, even if the alternative would force us to conclude that these fathers—and all others like them—were not saved. (Page 754.)
Clearly, we have in Reymond yet another example of one who embraces ECCLESIAL DEISM. Reymond joins R.C. Sproul, James R. White, and so many other Protestant apologists, who essentially argue that virtually the entire Church became apostate after the close of the Apostolic period, and that “the true Gospel” was not recovered until the 16th century.
So much for the promise of our Lord that He would be with His Church, unto the end of the world.
Grace and peace,
P.S. For another excellent thread on justification and historical theology see Neal Judisch’s POST.