Monday, April 26, 2010

Jason Engwer, “faith alone”, justification, imputation vs. infusion…

Last week in the combox of a thread at the Beggars All blog (LINK), I responded (LINK) to a combox post by John Bugay who wrote:

In another vein, T.F. Torrance, in his 1947 work "The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers" has written very convincingly that the generation of Apostolic Fathers from 1 Clement through the next 100 years or so had lost the concept of grace that was taught in the New Testament. (LINK)

I wanted to let John know that I too was aware of, and had read, Dr. Torrance’s above referenced work, hence my post. Jason Engwer, who had made some comments in the same combox (and who was also involved in January, 2004 thread that I referenced), responded to my post to John (the very next comment following mine - LINK), which precipitated a number subsequent posts between Jason and myself in the same combox. There is a fair amount of material that I see no need to repeat here; however, I would now like to respond to the following that Jason posted:

You go on to once again quote some of your comments from our 2004 discussions. As I said earlier, your quotations from that discussion aren't doing anything to advance that discussion or this one. I know what you said in 2004. I was part of the discussion. And you've already linked it. You keep quoting what you said in 2004 while continuing to ignore more relevant issues that you've been neglecting.

I have some difficulties with the above: first, I must sincerely wonder if Jason is accurately recalling the 2004 discussion; for instance, he stated that Eric Svendsen “didn't participate in either of the two Clement of Rome threads”, but he did (as I pointed out, and which Jason later acknowledged). Second, if our 2004 discussion is not “doing anything to advance that discussion or this one”, why does he keep bringing it up? Note the following:

Jason: >>- You ought to explain how Eric Svendsen's "monitoring" allegedly affected your posts from 2004 in any relevant way. He didn't participate in either of the two Clement of Rome threads. And a few of us who were moderators in that forum did participate, and we repeatedly encouraged you to make more of an effort to explain and defend your view.>>

Me: I had been told that I was engaging in “sophistry”, and that if I continued to do so, I would no longer be welcome in the forum. Right or wrong, such comments (and previous banning actions) weighed on my mind. (Oh, and btw, NTRMin do post in the thread I linked to above.) Anyway, the past is past; I do not think that arguing over some of my perceptions from 6 years ago is fruitful; as for the present, the sense of caution concerning the type of moderation that was present back then is completely absent in the confines of THIS forum.

Jason responded to the above with:

I don't know what comment about "sophistry" you're referring to. You still aren't explaining how having such things "weighing on your mind" is relevant.

Once again, I cannot help but wonder if Jason is accurately recalling the 2004 discussions. Here was what I was told by one of the moderators (dtking):

Explain the part in bold. And I'll warn you right now, if you wax sophistic with me, I'm finished with you. I don't care how you turn that language, it is not Tridentine language. (LINK)

And just a bit later:

But this is an evangelical board, sir, and you are welcome to keep your complaints to yourself.

Moving on, Jason wrote:

I haven't argued that Clement of Rome affirms imputation. Rather, I've argued that he affirms justification through faith alone. I explained the distinction in our exchange in 2004. You're repeating an argument I've already addressed without explaining why my earlier response supposedly is wrong.

I think it is important to make note of what Jason actually said above (last week), and what he has left out from our 2004 discussion(s). In one of the 2004 threads he penned:

I also reject your assertion that nobody believed in the concept of imputed righteousness between the apostles and the Reformation. You cited the Evangelical scholar Alister McGrath, but I don't think he addresses some of the earliest church fathers. We can speak in general terms about how a father believed in some form of justification through works. But, in my view, the church fathers sometimes were inconsistent with themselves, including on issues of justification, which means that we can sometimes be misled if we try to find one view that was always held by a father, as if he was always consistent. I'm not convinced that the concept of imputed righteousness was absent during the timeframe in question. (LINK)

And a bit later:

I didn't argue that Clement refers to the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Rather, I argued that he refers to justification through faith alone and contradicts your concept of infused righteousness.

Me: Hence my ‘confusion’ concerning Jason’s position on Clement of Rome; if Clement’s view of “justification through faith alone” in actuality “contradicts” the concept of “infused righteousness”, then what option other than imputation is left? Does not the affirmation that Clement “contradicts” the concept of “infused righteousness” at the very least imply that he held to the imputation of righteousness? Hopefully Jason can clear this up in the near future.

Now for my summation of the 2004 JUSTIFICATION thread:

In the opening post of the thread I attempted to explore the issue of why some prominent Evangelicals refused to accept/endorse the ECT document “The Gift of Salvation”. I went on to provide selections from R. C. Sproul’s book, Getting the Gospel Right, wherein he delineated his reason(s) for rejecting the document, and asked this queston: Is Sproul correct on this? Is the doctrine imputation vs. infusion an “essential”?

A good portion of the rest of the thread pertained to either attempts to ‘prove’ that I had somehow misread Dr. Sproul, or attempts to ‘prove’ that the Roman Catholic Church, the ECT document “The Gift of Salvation”, and the “Joint Declaration” document on justification, teach a “false gospel”. In the end, I sincerely believe that much of what I presented was not adequately addressed, and I suspect that whether or not one agrees or disagrees with me on this will depend on one’s presuppositions, with the anti-RCC crowd taking the position that I was thoroughly refuted, while those who maintain the RCC is still a Christian church opting for my reading of the material.

FYI: Jason has recently participated in two other threads that are germane to some of the issues touched on above; the following are the links to those threads for those who may be interested:

Justification: The Catholic Church and the Judaizers in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

How Evangelical Pastors Can Make Former Catholics Feel Welcome in Their Church

I have been reading through those threads this afternoon, and may have some comments to post once I have finished both of them.


Grace and peace,

David

37 comments:

Nick said...

Engwer is slippery in this regard, and I say this from my own experience on this topic. He refuses to recognize/accept the idea that 'faith alone' only is Sola Fide if the one espousing it is speaking in an imputation of Christ's righteousness framework. Otherwise, anyone, even Catholics, can claim 'faith alone'.

A Church Father making mention of "faith alone" doesn't do Engwer any good unless other supporting concepts can be introduced. For example, Sola Fide in it's most logical form (i.e. Calvinism) entails salvation cannot be lost. This is a matter of basic theological consistency, so it's something any intelligent individual espousing SF should affirm. But I dont know of any Church Father who comes anywhere near to espousing Once Saved Always Saved. Other factors to look for are whether the Church Father puts faith in opposition to Baptism (which Engwer strongly does in his own SF theology), a thing which I've never seen a Father do. This is the true manner in which one goes about proving whether a Father (or anyone for that matter) is espousing the "true" Biblical version of Sola Fide. Sadly, Protestants who realize this are few and far between.

Engwer (and many like him) is more focused on 'winning' at any cost (e.g. wear out the opponent with endless 'qualifications') than presenting the better argument. He's very slippery when it comes to just how critical/important imputation is, and he refuses to be governed by historic Protestant confessions (on this and various issues). He's a Protestant in the fullest sense.

Jason Engwer said...

David Waltz,

You've cited a comment I made regarding imputed righteousness in pre-Reformation sources in general, not Clement of Rome in particular. Elsewhere in the same thread, I repeatedly explained to you that I don't maintain that the concept is found in Clement of Rome. Why would you ignore what I said about the source we were discussing and quote, instead, something I said about pre-Reformation sources in general?

In my 10:58 A.M. post on 1/22/04, I said that I was addressing Clement's view of the means of receiving justification "regardless of his view of Christ's righteousness". In my 3:33 P.M. post of the same day, I wrote "I didn't argue that Clement refers to the imputation of Christ's righteousness."

In this thread, you ask:

"Hence my ‘confusion’ concerning Jason’s position on Clement of Rome; if Clement’s view of 'justification through faith alone' in actuality 'contradicts' the concept of 'infused righteousness', then what option other than imputation is left? Does not the affirmation that Clement 'contradicts' the concept of 'infused righteousness' at the very least imply that he held to the imputation of righteousness?"

I addressed that issue in the 2004 discussion. A source can comment on whether justification is received through works without commenting on why it's received in that manner, such as because of an infused or imputed righteousness of Christ. The latter subject may not come up in the context in which the source is writing. Or the source in question may be undecided on the issue or have never considered it. Believers of the Old Testament era, for example, wouldn't have thought in terms of an infused or imputed righteousness of Christ. (I cited the examples of the tax collector in Luke 18 and the thief on the cross in our 2004 discussion.) And I suspect that the large majority of professing Christians haven't thought in such terms much, if at all, including in our day. How many gospel presentations in Evangelical circles even mention the imputed righteousness of Christ? I doubt that more than a small minority of Evangelicals could provide you with an accurate description of the concept. The concept of the exclusion of works as a means of receiving justification is discussed much more often and probably is far more widely understood. And some people reject imputed righteousness while affirming that justification is received through faith alone.

Regarding David King's comments in the 2004 thread, here's what you initially said earlier this month on James Swan's blog (2:01 A.M. post on April 22):

"I shall make the same suggestion to BA readers; all I would ask is that they keep in mind the owner of the message board (Eric Svendsen) had made it quite clear that my comments were being monitored, with a threat of being banned—in essence, I had ‘one hand tied behind my back’—Eric had an established track record of banning a number of Catholic posters."

But now you're citing what David King said. And neither of his comments threatens to ban you. And you still haven't explained how the "threat of being banned" allegedly affected the quality of your posts. Why don't you explain how all of these references to Eric Svendsen and David King allegedly are relevant to the topics we've been discussing at James Swan's blog and here? You're the one who brought up Eric Svendsen. I'm responding to what you initiated. What I want to know is why you initiated it. What's the relevance?

Jason Engwer said...

Nick wrote:

"For example, Sola Fide in it's most logical form (i.e. Calvinism) entails salvation cannot be lost. This is a matter of basic theological consistency, so it's something any intelligent individual espousing SF should affirm."

When the issue under consideration is whether there's historical precedent for a belief, then a historical source doesn't have to be consistent or to have addressed all of the related issues in order to provide some precedent. If a source discusses whether justification is received through faith or through faith and works, but doesn't address whether Christ's righteousness is imputed, then that source has some relevance to modern disputes over justification. He doesn't have to address every related issue in order to address one of them. And he doesn't have to have been consistent in order to provide a historical precedent for one or more modern beliefs.

Do you refrain from citing historical sources regarding ecclesiology in support of your view of the church unless they expressed agreement with you on every related concept in their extant writings? Do you take that approach with Marian doctrine, eschatology, etc.?

You write:

"Engwer (and many like him) is more focused on 'winning' at any cost (e.g. wear out the opponent with endless 'qualifications') than presenting the better argument. He's very slippery when it comes to just how critical/important imputation is, and he refuses to be governed by historic Protestant confessions (on this and various issues)."

You're making a lot of assertions without any accompanying argumentation. I've explained why I believe what I do. Why don't you interact with what I've said?

And if you want to be "governed" by modern "confessions", then why don't you tell us whether you hold the church fathers and other professing Christians accountable to what's required by Pope Pius IX's Ineffabilis Deus or the First Vatican Council, for example? Do you require that the fathers and other professing Christians held all of the beliefs that Roman Catholicism tells its people to accept today?

David Waltz said...

Hello Jason,

Thanks much for taking the time to respond; you posted:

>>You've cited a comment I made regarding imputed righteousness in pre-Reformation sources in general, not Clement of Rome in particular. Elsewhere in the same thread, I repeatedly explained to you that I don't maintain that the concept is found in Clement of Rome. Why would you ignore what I said about the source we were discussing and quote, instead, something I said about pre-Reformation sources in general?>>

Me: I sincerely appreciate the clarification; now that I am clear on your position concerning Clement of Rome’s understanding of justification (i.e. that he does not address whether righteousness is imputed or infused), I can say, with a high degree of confidence, that we are understanding the soteriology of 1 Clement (those aspects that are actually mentioned in the text) in pretty much the same way.

>>The concept of the exclusion of works as a means of receiving justification is discussed much more often and probably is far more widely understood. And some people reject imputed righteousness while affirming that justification is received through faith alone.>>

Me: Agreed (and well said). Now, with the above thoughts in mind, perhaps you can understand why I had (have) difficulty with R. C. Sproul’s insistence on imputed righteousness as being “essential” to the Gospel.

>>But now you're citing what David King said. And neither of his comments threatens to ban you. And you still haven't explained how the "threat of being banned" allegedly affected the quality of your posts. Why don't you explain how all of these references to Eric Svendsen and David King allegedly are relevant to the topics we've been discussing at James Swan's blog and here? You're the one who brought up Eric Svendsen. I'm responding to what you initiated. What I want to know is why you initiated it. What's the relevance?>>

Me: I referenced Eric because he was the owner of the board; to this day I am not privy to extent of the powers that he gave to the other moderators (specifically whether or not the other moderators could ban someone without his approval); without some ‘insider’ information, I assumed that the bans that had taken place ultimately fell on his shoulders—but, let me be clear: I see no need to quibble over who was the final authority of the forum, it is just not an important issue for me.

As for what David said, it sure seemed like a threat to me; and that is how I understood it (right or wrong); I sincerely fail to understand why you continue make this an issue—I admit upfront that I cannot read minds, and that I may have been wrong about David’s threat. But, once again, right or wrong, I did see it as a threat back then, and he specifically stated that I was not to defend/interpret the Trindentine language/understanding on justification. IMO, it is next to impossible to attempt to refute the charge that the RCC “teaches a false Gospel” without dealing with Trent.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.


Grace and peace,

David

Nick said...

Jason,

I agree a historical source doesn't have to touch upon every related issue, but depending on the issue we can expect certain related doctrines to follow somewhere or another in that author's thought. The only alternative is that the author was clueless on the 'clear teaching' of Scripture and/or was incapable of systematic theology above a surface level.

When it comes to something like Sola Fide, without the source mentioning 'Christ's imputed righteousness', if the source fails to address other related doctrines, one has no good basis to think the source is espousing the Protestant understanding (which is the only 'true' one). And the fact Luther said he couldn't find any fathers who 'got it' when it came to alien imputed righteousness is very telling.


(I'm not sure what your last paragraph is even getting at. When doctrines are formally defined, they only bind from then on. That's a totally different argument than whether someone is bound to any existing Confession at all.)

Jason Engwer said...

Nick wrote:

"I agree a historical source doesn't have to touch upon every related issue, but depending on the issue we can expect certain related doctrines to follow somewhere or another in that author's thought. The only alternative is that the author was clueless on the 'clear teaching' of Scripture and/or was incapable of systematic theology above a surface level."

An author may not address a subject in his extant writings, he may address it in an unclear manner, or he may be mistaken without being "clueless" or "incapable of systematic theology above a surface level". As I noted above, imputed righteousness is a concept that's often neglected even in Evangelical circles. And some people who profess belief in sola fide reject imputation. Are all of those people "clueless"? I don't see any reason to think so. People can neglect something or arrive at wrong conclusions about it for a variety of reasons (societal influences, other issues are more prominent in the context in which they're living, etc.). With some of the sources in question, like Clement of Rome, we only have a small amount of material from them, and the context in which they were writing was one in which we have no reason to expect a discussion of imputed righteousness. It could be mentioned, but nothing compels its being mentioned.

You write:

"When it comes to something like Sola Fide, without the source mentioning 'Christ's imputed righteousness', if the source fails to address other related doctrines, one has no good basis to think the source is espousing the Protestant understanding (which is the only 'true' one)."

Partial agreement with a Protestant view of justification has some significance, even though it's not as significant as complete agreement. Similarly, a Catholic will cite a father's comments about Mary's sinless behavior even if that father doesn't comment on whether she was immaculately conceived.

(continued below)

Jason Engwer said...

(continued from above)

You write:

"And the fact Luther said he couldn't find any fathers who 'got it' when it came to alien imputed righteousness is very telling."

Martin Luther was one man, he didn't have the experience of somebody like a historian or a patristic scholar, and he lived about half a millennium ago. Some people with more relevant credentials who have lived since then, with access to far more information, have argued that the concept of imputed righteousness is found in some sources between the apostles and the Reformation. See the examples I discuss here. It's not a subject I've studied much. I think imputed righteousness is a correct and important doctrine, but I don't consider belief in it essential. My research interests have been more focused on whether justification is received through faith alone. From what I have read concerning the history of imputed righteousness, though, I find the idea that it was absent between the apostles and the Reformation dubious.

But even if we limited ourselves to Luther's assessment for the moment, at least he found imputed righteousness in the Biblical documents and could make a good case for it from those sources. That's more than can be said for much of what Roman Catholicism teaches. Deriving imputed righteousness from scripture is more reasonable than the Biblical case that can be made for prayers to the dead or the assumption of Mary, for example. The fact that such concepts arose and became popular prior to the Reformation is insufficient. Something can predate the Reformation, yet not be apostolic. (That's what you would say about Eastern Orthodoxy, for example.) When you accept so many Catholic doctrines that were widely absent or contradicted for generations of church history, objecting that imputed righteousness was widely absent or contradicted even longer doesn't carry much weight. An absence of patristic support for Luther's belief would be significant evidence against it. But the absence of both Biblical and early patristic support for so much of what you believe is even more significant. Saying that something like the assumption of Mary had some patristic support in later centuries is like having a bridge that gets you half way over a river. It's not enough. Criticizing Protestants for covering themselves with a fig leaf of Biblical evidence for imputed righteousness would be more credible if you and your fellow Catholics weren't standing there naked.

You write:

"When doctrines are formally defined, they only bind from then on. That's a totally different argument than whether someone is bound to any existing Confession at all."

Explain how binding yourself to a source like Pope Pius IX's teaching in Ineffabilis Deus or the First Vatican Council, after Christians were free to contradict those teachings for centuries prior to that time, makes more sense than my position. You've criticized me for "wearing out the opponent with endless 'qualifications'", yet you're making qualifications about who had to believe what and when.

I don't deny that people are bound to believe in imputed righteousness in the sense that it's something that scripture teaches. We should believe the teachings of scripture. But I distinguish between what a person must believe in order to be justified and what doesn't have to be believed in order for justification to occur. Similarly, Catholicism doesn't claim that a Protestant or Eastern Orthodox, for example, must believe everything Roman Catholicism teaches in order to be justified.

Nick said...

Jason,

If an author doesn't give details either directly or through related doctrines, then any attempt at pointing to a 'faith alone' passage is of no value (as far as 'positive proof' goes). The examples I'm thinking of (e.g. espousing eternal security, putting a wedge between faith and baptism akin to faith versus works, etc) are very closely related, it's not something one 'overlooks', especially if they're the more verbose Fathers.


You said: "As I noted above, imputed righteousness is a concept that's often neglected even in Evangelical circles. And some people who profess belief in sola fide reject imputation. Are all of those people "clueless"? I don't see any reason to think so."

This comment is a clear example of the problems one faces when having this discussion with you. If an Evangelical neglects imputation, they cannot be doing theology above a surface level by definition (i.e. "clueless"). And for someone to believe in SF while denying Imputation is impossible, because "faith alone" means something specific to the reformers (i.e. double imputation) and not a mere slogan. Simply examine Westminster XI:1 for a clear example of what SF *does not* mean. They are not Protestant ("true Christian") by definition to espouse SF while denying imputation. It's akin to the Mormon belief in the "Trinity" but radically redefining it along their own lines (i.e. denying the orthodox formula of Three Persons in One Nature).


You said: "Martin Luther was one man, he didn't have the experience of somebody like a historian or a patristic scholar, and he lived about half a millennium ago."

This comment is simply astonishing. Either Luther was sent from God to single-handedly restore the Church or he was a madman. The authority and respect Luther commanded of Protestants was a level higher than the most corrupt pope could even dream of. To say he was "one man" lacking the credentials of modern "scholars" is ridiculous, almost a form of double speak. The super-apostle who 'discovered' and 'recovered' the "true Gospel" is suddenly inferior to some nobody with a degree from an 'accredited' institution?

You said: "I think imputed righteousness is a correct and important doctrine, but I don't consider belief in it essential."

This is simply Pope Engwer speaking, deciding what's essential and what isn't - not to mention in open defiance to other Protestant authorities who say just the opposite. That comment is as absurd as saying you think the Person-Nature distinction in the Trinity is correct and important but not 'essential' to be believed.


You said: "Deriving imputed righteousness from scripture is more reasonable than the Biblical case that can be made for prayers to the dead or the assumption of Mary, for example."

On the contrary: Paul uses the term 'reckon/impute/credit' about 30 times, so he was well aware of the term, but he *never* used it in regards to the three key "imputations" Protestants espouse (i.e. Adam's guilt imputed to us, our guild imputed to Christ, "Christ's Righteousness" imputed to us). Worse yet, Protestant scholars and apologists don't even examine how the Bible uses the term - and my theory is because they know the term isn't used the way they *need* it to be used. This is open and honest analysis of the Biblical evidence of that critical term, and I've yet to see any Protestant build their claim off of much more than presumptions:
https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ARTR-epWNcFHZGR0ZDc5djRfMTFkcWg2cGZmcw&hl=en

David Waltz said...

Hello Nick,

I do not want Jason to feel that we are ‘ganging-up’ on him here, but you raise some interesting issues (IMO). In your last post you wrote:

Nick:>> You said [Jason]: "I think imputed righteousness is a correct and important doctrine, but I don't consider belief in it essential."

This is simply Pope Engwer speaking, deciding what's essential and what isn't - not to mention in open defiance to other Protestant authorities who say just the opposite.>>

Me: The dialogue I had with Jason back in 2004 started over this very issue—Dr. Sproul explicitly claimed that the doctrine of imputed righteousness IS “essential” to the “true” Gospel (and many EVs concur with Dr. Sproul on this). I have still yet to find any Christian author/theologian prior to the 16th century who explicitly taught the doctrine of imputed righteousness (Dr. McGrath also has not been able to identify anyone either.)

A bit earlier in your post you mentioned: “putting a wedge between faith and baptism akin to faith versus works”. I have been pondering over this very issue the past few days, specifically asking myself the question: does the Bible and/or the early Church Fathers ever identify baptism as a “work”? Personally, I am not aware of one instance. On the ‘flip-side’ there are many theologians (Catholic and Protestant) who explicitly refer to baptism as a “sacrament of faith”. St Augustine put it this way: “the sacrament of faith [i.e. baptism] is faith.” (Letter 98.) And a bit earlier, he wrote: “so great is the virtue of that sacrament, namely, of baptism, which brings salvation” (Ibid.)

Anyway, I am contemplating over whether or not to type up a post on the relationship between faith and baptism; there is so much to share on this.

Grace and peace,

David

Joe said...

Jason said: "Deriving imputed righteousness from scripture is more reasonable than the Biblical case that can be made for prayers to the dead or the assumption of Mary, for example."

Nick said: On the contrary: Paul uses the term 'reckon/impute/credit' about 30 times, so he was well aware of the term, but he *never* used it in regards to the three key "imputations" Protestants espouse (i.e. Adam's guilt imputed to us, our guild imputed to Christ, "Christ's Righteousness" imputed to us). Worse yet, Protestant scholars and apologists don't even examine how the Bible uses the term - and my theory is because they know the term isn't used the way they *need* it to be used. This is open and honest analysis of the Biblical evidence of that critical term, and I've yet to see any Protestant build their claim off of much more than presumptions:


To clarify Nick, are you saying that Adam's guilt was not imputed to us, and our sin was not imputed to Christ? (I know you do not believe Christs' right. was not imputed to us.)

And that the bible gives evidence for prayers for the dead, assumption of Mary, and all your doctrines are found in the scriptures and were found in the Church from the very beginning?

Also, does Rome or the Orthodox Church give any formal interpretation of Romans 4:4-6, or any potential imputation/infusion passages? Not to disrespect Nick or David here, but it seems even Catholics disagree on doctrine (or the interpretation of it) and it would be nice for me to view the official interpretations as one who is trying to understand Catholic/Orthodox thought...coming from a Protestant position.

David...just curious if there were any arguments you would have added to the original 2004 discussion that you felt handcuffed in presenting because of the perceived hostile environment? I do not think it is a big issue...but for you to bring up that you essentially had one hand tied certainly screams you had other arguments not presented.

Thanks.

In Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Correction..

(I know you do not believe Christs right WAS imputed to us)

Nick said...

David,

My point also is not to 'gang up' on Engwer, only to note that his personal approach makes it difficult to nail anything down. I try to stick with "official" Protestant positions (e.g. Confessional, big name theologians), that way I'm not addressing each individual Protestant from scratch. If the individual Protestant doesn't want to conform to an 'official' Confession, then I know to conserve my energy for other more weighty discussions.

As for the wedge between faith and baptism, many Protestants (esp Calvinists) taking Sola Fide to it's logical end are forced to put "baptism" in the "works" category that Paul condemned - and Jason is very adamant about doing just that. But this argument is bogus for many reasons, and I don't believe any Father ever put the two at odds like that (which, again, is what we'd expect for those espousing "Sola Fide").

The Biblical argument against the artificial wedge is quite simple: Never are the two opposed, and in fact are often mentioned as coexisting (Col 2:12; Gal 3:27; etc). Further, Paul was explicitly opposing "works of the [Mosaic] Law." Now, many Protestants reason "the Mosaic Law contains the fullness of God's commands, encompassing every good work." This is simply fallacious and even downright wrong (cf Mk 10:2-12). The *fact* is Baptism is nowhere commanded in the Torah, thus it's not a 'work of the Law' by definition.

David Waltz said...

Hi Joe,

Thanks for responding, and your questions; you posted:

>>Also, does Rome or the Orthodox Church give any formal interpretation of Romans 4:4-6, or any potential imputation/infusion passages? Not to disrespect Nick or David here, but it seems even Catholics disagree on doctrine (or the interpretation of it) and it would be nice for me to view the official interpretations as one who is trying to understand Catholic/Orthodox thought...coming from a Protestant position.>>

Me: I no longer attend Catholic mass, and though I have not requested that my name be removed from Catholic record, it would not be accurate for me to claim to be Catholic. With that said, I am not aware of any “official” Catholic interpretation of Rom. 4:4-6; though I would suggest reading AQUINAS on ROMANS (see pages 166-175); Sacra Pagina - Romans (pages 144ff.); and Romans - Joseph A. Fitzmyer (pages 369-387).

>>David...just curious if there were any arguments you would have added to the original 2004 discussion that you felt handcuffed in presenting because of the perceived hostile environment? I do not think it is a big issue...but for you to bring up that you essentially had one hand tied certainly screams you had other arguments not presented.>>

Me: I would have presented a robust challenge to the claim that Trent denied/rejected the gospel. Contra Engwer, King, White et al. I do not believe that Trent repudiates justification (first/initial) by grace alone, through faith alone. For some of my thoughts on this matter see: A Catholic affirmation/understanding of “faith alone”; and James White: “he’s not really like the Pope”, so let me tell you what Trent really says… for starters.


Grace and peace,

David

Nick said...

Joe,

I try to word my comments on these matters carefully. Many wrongly assume that the 'Three Protestant Imputations' are the only way to support concepts such as 'atonement' and 'original sin' and such and thus to deny the Three Imputations is a repudiation of the Gospel. Adam's sin affected us all in a very real way, but it wasn't in the form of imputation. Rather it should be seen more akin to inheriting a genetic disorder, which isn't at all the same as imputation. Likewise, our sin wasn't imputed to Christ, but Christ did make satisfaction/atonement/propitiation for our sins. How is this possible? For starters, the *Bible* never teaches satisfaction/atonement/propitiation is done in an imputation framework, simply see this essay:
http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2009/01/penal-substitution-debate-negative.html


You then brought up various Catholic doctrines which Protestants deem false because they're not "Biblical". Catholics believe the Bible (and Fathers) does give (at least implicit) evidence for our doctrines. The main stumbling block in discussing these though is that Protestants approach Scripture incorrectly, as if it were a 'judge of controversies' and 'user manual'. That's not the nature of Scripture. Scripture was written primarily to *believers* who were *already* on the side of the Apostles, thus the Apostles were never envisioning the Bible being used by post-apostolic Christians to examine whether this or that doctrine is "Biblical," rather it was a supplement and testimony of what each author deemed important at the time. So of course many Protestants won't accept the Biblical proofs Catholics give, but that's not really a problem because the Bible wasn't meant to prove and dogmatize only those doctrines 'with clear Biblical evidence.' Think about it, when writing a friendly letter to a fellow believer, is it your intent to focus upon much of what's already agreed upon or even write them a textbook? No. Nor should we expect the Apostles to act like that.

The Catholic Church doesn't give formal interpretations to the great majority of Scripture, for various reasons (most especially for the reason I just gave above).

David Waltz said...

The link to Sacra Pagina - Romans by Brendan Byrne and Daniel J. Harrington is not working--copy and paste the following if interested in the book:

http://books.google.com/books?id=88Z0_ZJC9L8C&pg=PP1&dq=Romans+By+Brendan+Byrne,+Daniel+J.+Harrington&lr=&cd=1#v=onepage&q&f=false

Joe said...

Me: I no longer attend Catholic mass, and though I have not requested that my name be removed from Catholic record, it would not be accurate for me to claim to be Catholic. With that said, I am not aware of any “official” Catholic interpretation of Rom. 4:4-6; though I would suggest reading AQUINAS on ROMANS (see pages 166-175); Sacra Pagina - Romans (pages 144ff.); and Romans - Joseph A. Fitzmyer (pages 369-387).

Thanks for the links/info. Looks like I am going to have much reading to do! So if you do not consider yourself Catholic, may I ask what denom/faith/etc you consider yourself to be. Is it just Orthodox, as in Eastern Orthodox? I am very ignorant concerning E/O. My knowledge of RC is mainly from a few friends that I have had some discussions with.

Me: I would have presented a robust challenge to the claim that Trent denied/rejected the gospel. Contra Engwer, King, White et al. I do not believe that Trent repudiates justification (first/initial) by grace alone, through faith alone. For some of my thoughts on this matter see: A Catholic affirmation/understanding of “faith alone”; and James White: “he’s not really like the Pope”, so let me tell you what Trent really says… for starters.

Great, more reading! :) So do some RC or similar believers in your "circumstance" believe that Trent DOES repudiate just. by grace alone/faith alone?? From my experience, this just sounds really different from everything else I have heard (from my seemingly knowledgeable RC friends - and protestant books I have read). Perhaps you deal with this question in the articles...but I just wanted to ask this quick question right away, before reading them.

Thanks.

In Him,

Joe

Jason Engwer said...

Nick wrote:

"If an author doesn't give details either directly or through related doctrines, then any attempt at pointing to a 'faith alone' passage is of no value (as far as 'positive proof' goes). The examples I'm thinking of (e.g. espousing eternal security, putting a wedge between faith and baptism akin to faith versus works, etc) are very closely related, it's not something one 'overlooks', especially if they're the more verbose Fathers."

You aren't interacting with what I've argued. I've explained why an exclusion of works is significant without an accompanying affirmation of imputed righteousness. If you haven't read the background to the current thread, which David Waltz has linked above, then you may want to read those previous discussions. Since my position is that the exclusion of works as a means of seeking justification is an essential issue, whereas belief in imputed righteousness isn't, I don't agree with your assertion that an exclusion of works has "no value". The exclusion of works, as I've defined that concept in the discussions that occurred prior to this one, is a contradiction of Roman Catholic soteriology. I'm not referring to the exclusion of works in a manner Catholicism would accept, so your suggestion that patristic exclusions of work would have "no value" doesn't make sense. You seem to be assuming a Roman Catholic definition of the exclusion of works I've referred to, even though I've defined the term differently. If you're not assuming a Catholic definition, then you'll have to explain why the exclusion of works has "no value".

I've addressed baptism in one of the threads David has linked above. I've discussed eternal security here. I've explained the relevance of sources other than the church fathers in some of the discussions David has linked above, as well as here, for example.

As far as "overlooking" is concerned, the sort of consistency you're asking for is frequently absent, both in historical sources and in today's world. I've discussed some examples above. Would you argue that the average Evangelical would even be able to define imputed righteousness? Remember, we live in a society in which polling has shown that a majority of people can't even name the four gospels. Evangelicals tend to be more knowledgeable of theological issues than the average American, but even polling by Barna, for example, that focuses on Evangelicals has found a high degree of theological ignorance. You keep associating concepts like imputed righteousness and eternal security with justification through faith alone, yet there are many individuals and groups who profess one or more of those concepts without accepting all of them. There are millions of people in the world today, including scholars in multiple Protestant traditions, who overlook what you keep claiming the church fathers wouldn't have overlooked.

As I explained above, Catholics frequently appeal to a church father's partial agreement with Catholicism. Did every father who agreed with one or more elements of Catholic ecclesiology, Mariology, etc. agree with every other element, every implication of every concept? The fathers frequently agreed with some concepts found in modern Catholicism while disagreeing with other concepts, including ones that Catholics claim are implied by the concepts the fathers did accept.

(continued below)

Jason Engwer said...

(continued from above)

You write:

"If an Evangelical neglects imputation, they cannot be doing theology above a surface level by definition (i.e. 'clueless')."

That's an assertion, not an argument.

You write:

"And for someone to believe in SF while denying Imputation is impossible, because 'faith alone' means something specific to the reformers (i.e. double imputation) and not a mere slogan."

You're grouping multiple soteriological concepts together and calling them "faith alone". But the means of receiving justification can be distinguished from the ground of justification, even though the two are related. I've explained that I'm addressing the means of receiving justification, and I've explained why I make that distinction. I don't deny that an affirmation of faith alone as the means of receiving justification in Clement of Rome, for example, falls short of the grouping of multiple Reformation concepts that you're calling "faith alone". That's not in dispute. But the affirmation of the one concept I'm focusing on is significant, for reasons I've explained.

You write:

"This comment is simply astonishing. Either Luther was sent from God to single-handedly restore the Church or he was a madman. The authority and respect Luther commanded of Protestants was a level higher than the most corrupt pope could even dream of. To say he was 'one man' lacking the credentials of modern 'scholars' is ridiculous, almost a form of double speak. The super-apostle who 'discovered' and 'recovered' the 'true Gospel' is suddenly inferior to some nobody with a degree from an 'accredited' institution?"

Actually, your simplistic framing of the issue is what's astonishing. You don't provide any documentation for your assessment of Luther, and the conclusions you draw don't follow even from your own premises. Luther could mistakenly overestimate his historical significance without being "a madman". I think Popes are wrong about the authority they claim to have, and I think the belief of some Popes that they've been infallible is mistaken. But I don't conclude that they're therefore "madmen". I think many people who claim to have experienced a miracle or claim to have received a message from God have been mistaken, but it doesn't follow that they're "madmen". And the "authority and respect Luther commanded of Protestants" doesn't imply that he has more knowledge of church history than a historian or patristic scholar. I haven't said that Luther was a "super-apostle", so expecting me to be consistent with such an assessment of him doesn't make sense.

(continued below)

Jason Engwer said...

(continued from above)

You write:

"This is simply Pope Engwer speaking, deciding what's essential and what isn't - not to mention in open defiance to other Protestant authorities who say just the opposite."

I've argued for my view of what's essential and what isn't. If you think I've misinterpreted the Biblical passages I've cited, then explain why. If you can believe that your interpretation of Catholic documents is correct without considering yourself a Pope, then I can consider my interpretation of scripture correct without considering myself a Pope.

If you had read the exchange at Beggars All that led up to this discussion, you would know that one of the posters there cited some of John Calvin's comments about the salvation of people who lived between the apostles and the Reformation. (See the comments of Viisaus from 6:10 A.M. on April 21 here.) Protestants frequently refer to the salvation of people who lived between the apostles and the Reformation. I doubt they're doing so because they have evidence that convinces them that each of those pre-Reformation individuals believed in imputed righteousness. If you want to accuse those Protestants of being inconsistent, then you should similarly be willing to consider the possibility of such deficiencies among the church fathers. People, including the church fathers, are sometimes inconsistent and sometimes overlook things that seem obvious to other individuals. Regardless, I'm not responsible for an inconsistency on the part of another person or group. If you want to argue against my position, then argue against my position, not somebody else's.

You write:

"On the contrary: Paul uses the term 'reckon/impute/credit' about 30 times, so he was well aware of the term, but he *never* used it in regards to the three key 'imputations' Protestants espouse (i.e. Adam's guilt imputed to us, our guild imputed to Christ, 'Christ's Righteousness' imputed to us)."

You're not addressing what I said. Not only does your conclusion about imputation not follow from your suggestion that Paul should have used a particular term if he believed in the concept, but you aren't even addressing the comparison I made. Where are concepts like the assumption of Mary in scripture and the earliest post-apostolic generations of church history? Roman Catholicism has claimed that such beliefs are apostolic traditions always held by the church. With imputed righteousness, we know that there are multiple Biblical passages that refer to a righteousness given as a gift, from God, apart from works, paralleled with how human sin was associated with Christ on the cross, discussed in the context of justification, etc. Where's the comparable or better evidence for something like Mary's assumption?

Jason Engwer said...

Far too many topics have come up here for me to address all of them, especially to address all of them in depth. I would again point any interested reader to the discussions that occurred prior to this one. See the links in David's post opening this thread. In a more recent post, David has raised the issue of whether baptism should be considered a work that's excluded from being a means of justification, and he's referred to the concept that baptism is faith. I've addressed both issues in previous discussions. See, especially, here.

Joe said...

Hi Nick.

...Adam's sin affected us all in a very real way, but it wasn't in the form of imputation. Rather it should be seen more akin to inheriting a genetic disorder, which isn't at all the same as imputation. Likewise, our sin wasn't imputed to Christ, but Christ did make satisfaction/atonement/propitiation for our sins. How is this possible? For starters, the *Bible* never teaches satisfaction/atonement/propitiation is done in an imputation framework, simply see this essay:
http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2009/01/penal-substitution-debate-negative.html


Okay...I will read that article too before asking too many questions. It is extremely odd to my ears...to hear that our sins are not imputed to Christ. They certainly were not His...so I do not know whose else they would be, but like I say, I will read it first.

So before reading the article, you have answered my initial question as to the other imputations. And this is official RC doctrine, right? (well...I guess I am assuming you are RC) May I ask if other RC believe in imputation in any sense? Does the RC have flexibility to believe in imputation at all?

You then brought up various Catholic doctrines which Protestants deem false because they're not "Biblical". Catholics believe the Bible (and Fathers) does give (at least implicit) evidence for our doctrines. The main stumbling block in discussing these though is that Protestants approach Scripture incorrectly, as if it were a 'judge of controversies' and 'user manual'. That's not the nature of Scripture. Scripture was written primarily to *believers* who were *already* on the side of the Apostles, thus the Apostles were never envisioning the Bible being used by post-apostolic Christians to examine whether this or that doctrine is "Biblical," rather it was a supplement and testimony of what each author deemed important at the time. So of course many Protestants won't accept the Biblical proofs Catholics give, but that's not really a problem because the Bible wasn't meant to prove and dogmatize only those doctrines 'with clear Biblical evidence.' Think about it, when writing a friendly letter to a fellow believer, is it your intent to focus upon much of what's already agreed upon or even write them a textbook? No. Nor should we expect the Apostles to act like that.

Yes...I understand that the scriptures were in large part written because of issues that came up and that it is not like a manual we think of today. But, that certainly does not explain why Jesus, NT writers, early church would search the scriptures to see if a particular doctrine is correct. It seems to me that the manual concept is pushed a bit too far, and that it would essentially mute what the scriptures teach.

Also, you then bring up that Protest do not believe the biblical proofs Catholics give. If your stance is that the bible is not a manual, and does not dogmatize/proof doctrine...what is the need or purpose of "Catholic biblical proofs". It seems on the one hand you are saying the bible does not teach everything we need to know, and yet still argue for Catholic biblical proofs. According to your view, does the RCC teach that everything is taught either explicitly or implicitly in scripture....or that there are indeed doctrines/traditions that we need to know not found in scripture at all?

The Catholic Church doesn't give formal interpretations to the great majority of Scripture, for various reasons (most especially for the reason I just gave above).

I guess I am missing why, even though you referenced it above. I am not trying to be difficult. Infallibly interpreting the scriptures would seem to be in every way profitable, if there was an infallible interpreter. Are there any scriptures at all that have been interpreted?

Thanks.

In Him,

Joe

Nick said...

Jason,

I want to make my response as brief as possible (for both of our sakes), because we tend to simply be repeating ourselves here and elsewhere.

(1) Whatever advantage *you* personally can draw from excluding works wholesale is only beneficial if you show *the source* quoted is intending to exclude works wholesale (e.g. faith vs baptism), otherwise I believe the works condemned in each case are simply those Catholics already condemn (e.g. Trent, Session 6, Canon 1).

(2) Excluding works wholesale doesn't necessitate imputed righteousness, thus the presence of the former doesn't demand the latter. Excluding works could still have one saved by things such as a one time infusion or even graciously granting faith itself the sufficient grounds of salvation.

(3) You said, "As far as "overlooking" is concerned, the sort of consistency you're asking for is frequently absent, both in historical sources and in today's world. Would you argue that the average Evangelical would even be able to define imputed righteousness? Remember, we live in a society in which polling has shown that a majority of people can't even name the four gospels. ... There are millions of people in the world today, including scholars in multiple Protestant traditions, who overlook what you keep claiming the church fathers wouldn't have overlooked."
You are confusing Evangelical ignorance due to sloth and noneducational with theologically inclined Fathers and even modern day Protestant theologians and folks like us. The latter group doesn't 'overlook' significantly inter-connected doctrines, one need look no further than "TULIP" as a prime example.


I've read your various articles and comments before, I'm not denying you've spoke on them - *however*, speaking on something and actually substantiating one's argument are not the same. Frequently, you've simply been making special appeals and assumptions (while often either misunderstanding or ignoring the merit of your opponent's comments). One famous example of what I'm talking about that I recall is that in your quest to show Eternal Security wasn't a Protestant invention but was actually believed in the Early Church, your "evidence" consisted in quoting orthodox fathers like Augustine who *condemn* the notion of eternal security against false/confused groups who held it. (I invite readers here to examine the link Jason posted above on Eternal Security in the Early Church for a solid example of what I'm saying.)

Lastly, I'd say my biggest complaint about your patristic methodology is that it relies on 'slash and burn' principles in which you devote much energy to point out and emphasize whatever patristic disagreements you can with the intent of discrediting them so the Catholic cannot appeal to them with consistency. The problem with this is that in the process it renders the patristics as ultimately worthless (confused and self contradicting fools) as far as Christian testimony goes, which is also an offensive denigration of their Christian witness.

Jason Engwer said...

Nick wrote:

"Whatever advantage *you* personally can draw from excluding works wholesale is only beneficial if you show *the source* quoted is intending to exclude works wholesale (e.g. faith vs baptism), otherwise I believe the works condemned in each case are simply those Catholics already condemn (e.g. Trent, Session 6, Canon 1)."

Both sides would have to argue for their understanding of what works are in view. And I've argued for my understanding, such as in some of the threads I've linked above.

You write:

"Excluding works wholesale doesn't necessitate imputed righteousness, thus the presence of the former doesn't demand the latter."

I haven't been citing the exclusion of works in order to argue for imputation. Rather, I've been citing the exclusion of works as an essential issue itself and one for which there's precedent in pre-Reformation sources.

You write:

"You are confusing Evangelical ignorance due to sloth and noneducational with theologically inclined Fathers and even modern day Protestant theologians and folks like us."

Keep in mind that I'm addressing multiple issues that have been raised. Ignorance of imputation isn't just relevant to our assessment of the people who are ignorant. It's also relevant to our assessment of those who are more knowledgeable. One of the reasons why imputation is so poorly understood even in Evangelical circles is that pastors and other more knowledgeable individuals don't say much or anything about it to those they influence. What does that suggest about whether those more knowledgeable individuals consider belief in imputation essential?

There are many "theologically inclined" people within Protestantism who not only neglect the Reformation principles you've mentioned, but even reject one of more of them. Do you think imputed righteousness and eternal security are accepted by every knowledgable Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.?

People can be "theologically inclined", yet neglect some theological issues or be much more knowledgeable of some issues than others. A lot of the patristic literature is anonymous, written by laymen, or weighted toward one issue while giving little attention to another. The relevance of a patristic source is going to vary from case to case.

As I said above, Roman Catholicism has claimed that its doctrines have always been held by the church. If you read sources like Pope Pius IX's Ineffabilis Deus and the First Vatican Council, you'll see them referring to concepts like the immaculate conception of Mary and the papacy as clear teachings of scripture that have always been held by the church. Using your reasoning, should we conclude that the church fathers would have to be "clueless", "incapable of systematic theology above a surface level", etc. in order to not understand the doctrines taught by Roman Catholicism today? As I've documented (here, for example), much of what Catholicism teaches was widely absent or contradicted in the patristic literature, even for multiple generations or multiple centuries. Your denomination makes higher claims about the history of its doctrines than I've made about the history of concepts like imputed righteousness, yet you keep acting as though I should be expected to meet a higher standard of evidence.

(continued below)

Jason Engwer said...

(continued from above)

You write:

"I've read your various articles and comments before, I'm not denying you've spoke on them - *however*, speaking on something and actually substantiating one's argument are not the same."

And making that point doesn't interact with the arguments I've presented.

You write:

"One famous example of what I'm talking about that I recall is that in your quest to show Eternal Security wasn't a Protestant invention but was actually believed in the Early Church, your 'evidence' consisted in quoting orthodox fathers like Augustine who *condemn* the notion of eternal security against false/confused groups who held it."

I didn't just cite Augustine's comments. I also cited what some of the fathers themselves believed. (The article in question is here.)

But even as far as the comments of Augustine are concerned, why wouldn't they be relevant? I was responding, in part, to some claims Catholic Answers had made. They claimed that the concept of the impossibility of losing one's salvation was "a theological novelty of the mid-sixteenth century". Therefore, it was relevant to cite Augustine's discussion of people who held the belief in his day.

Even apart from the context of responding to Catholic Answers, why wouldn't the people Augustine refers to be relevant? You've said that it was acceptable for earlier generations to disagree with the teachings of sources like Pope Pius IX's Ineffabilis Deus and the First Vatican Council. Are you suggesting that the people Augustine refers to weren't permitted to affirm the concept of eternal security? If so, why? Did a Pope or council infallibly condemn the teaching, for example? I know that Augustine disagreed with the people in question. It doesn't therefore follow that they were heretics by any relevant standard. Augustine also disagreed with people who held some of the beliefs that you hold today (the papacy, Mary's immaculate conception, etc.). It doesn't follow that those people were heretics in any relevant sense.

(continued below)

Jason Engwer said...

(continued from above)

You write:

"Lastly, I'd say my biggest complaint about your patristic methodology is that it relies on 'slash and burn' principles in which you devote much energy to point out and emphasize whatever patristic disagreements you can with the intent of discrediting them so the Catholic cannot appeal to them with consistency. The problem with this is that in the process it renders the patristics as ultimately worthless (confused and self contradicting fools) as far as Christian testimony goes, which is also an offensive denigration of their Christian witness."

You give us no reason to agree with that assessment. You just assert it.

The fact that the church fathers sometimes contradicted Roman Catholicism and were sometimes self-inconsistent or inconsistent with other fathers is widely acknowledged in modern scholarship, including among Catholic scholars. I've documented some examples in my articles linked above. It doesn't therefore follow that they were "confused and self contradicting fools". The fact that a father of the second century says nothing about an assumption of Mary doesn't mean that he must also have said nothing about Jesus' resurrection, for example. Or if a father of the fourth century denies the sinlessness of Mary, it doesn't follow that he must also have denied that 2 Timothy was written by Paul. The fathers can widely agree on one issue while widely disagreeing on another. And even where there's disagreement, one side of a dispute can be more credible than the other side. Or a source that was in a poor position to judge one matter could have been in a good position to judge another matter. We make the same distinctions when examining Jewish history, Greek history, American history, etc. Those distinctions don't make the sources "ultimately worthless (confused and self contradicting fools)".

I've cited the fathers on a wide variety of issues (abortion, homosexuality, the resurrection of Christ, the infancy narratives, Biblical inerrancy, Biblical authorship, etc.). I make the same distinctions when addressing the fathers on other issues as I do when addressing them in the context of Catholicism.

Jnorm888 said...

Nick said:
"Engwer is slippery in this regard, and I say this from my own experience on this topic. He refuses to recognize/accept the idea that 'faith alone' only is Sola Fide if the one espousing it is speaking in an imputation of Christ's righteousness framework. Otherwise, anyone, even Catholics, can claim 'faith alone'."




I totally and 100% agree! For even the "faith alone" version of a good number of protestant Arminians can by pass most of the Anathemas of the Roman Catholic council of Trent. So what you said is very true. Very true indeed.





Christ is Risen!

Jnorm888 said...

Jason Engwer,

In regards to partial statements by the fathers that either partially agree with you or Rome....what you have to remember is.....is that partial statement something Rome rejects? If not, then it can't be used by you in support of what you believe.

For this would be like a Mormon quoting the fathers against Eastern Orthodoxy in regards to theososis.

If it's not something we reject then how can you quote it in your favor? If the faith alone statements made by those before Martin Luther can by pass the council of Trent then you can't quote it in your favor.


The onlything you can quote in regards to those "faith alone" statements before Martin Luther ....are the ones in which Rome rejects, and you guys accept.






Christ is Risen!

nilesh mahapatra said...

Hey,
When the issue under consideration is whether there's historical precedent for a belief, then a historical source doesn't have to be consistent or to have addressed all of the related issues in order to provide some precedent. If a source discusses whether justification is received through faith or through faith and works, but doesn't address whether Christ's righteousness is imputed, then that source has some relevance to modern disputes over justification. He doesn't have to address every related issue in order to address one of them. And he doesn't have to have been consistent in order to provide a historical precedent for one or more modern beliefs.....Thank's

David Waltz said...

Hello nilesh,

As relayed to you in the combox of the other thread—WELCOME!

You wrote:

>>When the issue under consideration is whether there's historical precedent for a belief, then a historical source doesn't have to be consistent or to have addressed all of the related issues in order to provide some precedent. If a source discusses whether justification is received through faith or through faith and works, but doesn't address whether Christ's righteousness is imputed, then that source has some relevance to modern disputes over justification. He doesn't have to address every related issue in order to address one of them. And he doesn't have to have been consistent in order to provide a historical precedent for one or more modern beliefs>>

Me: Indeed, I would add that this represents a good portion of the history of the development of doctrine(s), and that there remains a good number of unresolved issues within the Christian paradigm.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi JNorm,

I do not recall that you have posted here at AF before (forgive my lapse in memory if you have), so I would like to extend a big WELCOME! to you. I have added a link to one of the blogs (http://ancientchristiandefender.blogspot.com/) listed in your profile, and hope to read through of good number of the threads there later this week, the Lord willing.

Grace and peace,

David

Jnorm888 said...

Yeah, I posted once or twice. I know I did on the Trinity issue when you were responding to Photius Jones in the com box.

Thanks for welcoming me. I read your blog often, and I know that you are no longer Roman Catholic, and I know that I have your blog as being "Reformed Protestant". If you want me to change it to where I have my Catholic blogs......I will.

But I know you are no longer Catholic, and from what I got from your blog as well as your comments elsewhere, Eastern Orthodoxy doesn't seem attractive to you.

And so my advice to you is take it slow and think about going back to Rome.

Yes you are in doubt about a couple of things. But who isn't?

Go back to Rome......even with a troubled conscience, just ask God to help you. I say this because you are leaving Rome with no place to go, and you need the Mysteries/Sacraments.

So ask God to help you with your unbelief and move on.

I would like you to be Orthodox......but I know that is not gonna happen anytime soon.....and so.....go back to Rome, for you need to partake of the Sacraments.....even with doubts.


What good is faith if you don't struggle? You know?

I'm sorry for ranting David, but I always wanted to tell you that since January.

Take care and God bless!







Christ is Risen!

Acolyte4236 said...

The question as it seems to be can’t be whether Clement or any other source speaks of “justification [as] received through faith.” That is not specific enough to pick out what the Reformers meant by that phrase. Here is why. The doctrine of Sola Fide when phrases like the above are meant have a distinct conceptual content. It is possible to use that kind of phraseology and not have the Reformation conceptual content in mind. Augustine for example uses the phraseology (as did Pelagius) but neither of them had the conceptual content of the Reformation notion of Sola Fide in mind. That is beyond dispute.

The relevant Reformation conceptual content seems to me to be the idea that faith is first worthless in terms of pleasing God relative to justification. Faith is a conduit or an extrinsic relational principle by which a created merit ungrounded in person who has faith is transferred to them in terms of classification. The created merit is therefore an intermediary, albeit a metaphysically thin one. Moreover, said faith is also excluded from participating intrinsically in justification since it is monergistically caused in the believer.

Now if we take away imputed righteousness from this schema such that the question is something like if Clement or other authors who used the phrases mentioned above, it seems to me that we have a notion then where a (created?) justice may come to its recipient by “faith” apart from works but then this leaves untouched the question of what constitutes faith? One could take it in an Augustinian sense as a virtue that pleases God and hence the ground of said justice in the believer, thereby implying a more realist rather than nominalistic taxonomic viewpoint. In other words, even if Clement used such phrases to mean that no prior (or even subsequent) acts of a believer could contribute to or participate in justification, we need an argument to show that what he means by “faith” is the same concept as that part of the Reformation notion to get to the conclusion that Clement had at least in part the relevant Reformation notion in mind. I haven’t seen that argument so perhaps someone could point it out to me.

Second, we might also need as part of that argument that Clement or other authors thought that said faith was monergistically caused in the recipient. Without that, its hard to see how the Reformation conception or any significant (controversial) part of it could be present.

Acolyte4236 said...

(Cont.)

Third, while the means of receiving justice can be distinguished from its ground, they cannot exist apart from each other in order to have the Reformation teaching as a matter of concepts. If we receive justice through faith only, but said justice is received because it is grounded in the virtues of the soul as say Augustine or Chrysostom thought, then the idea of receiving justification through faith here is not what the Reformers thought that phrase meant. That is because there seems to me to be at least an implication relation, if not an entailment relation between the idea that faith is extrinsically related to the justice that is conveyed to its recipient and the idea that said justice is ungrounded in the recipient. If faith is extrinsically related to the justice that it is a conduit for, I can’t see conceptually how this doesn’t entail the idea that the justice is ungrounded in the recipient.

So it doesn’t seem to be a question of Reformation concepts grouped together, but whether they are logically related by implication and entailment. That has historically been the Reformation argument-that they are. Either Clement or others were inconsistent or they didn’t affirm even part of the concept and the fact that they expressed themselves using similar phrases is incidental, just as it is in Augustine, Pelagius, etc. The question is, how did they think of faith-as an inhering virtue that pleases God or a virtue extrinsically related to divine pleasure that acts as an instrument conveying said divine pleasure?


It doesn’t matter if there are many individual groups who confess some parts of sola fide or other associated concepts or not. What would matter is if they did so consistently or not.


It also seems to me that it isn’t important for a Catholic whether Catholicism agrees with all of the fathers on every issue. I am not sure why a Catholic would be wedded to that thesis. First, not every church figure is a father. Not in Catholicism, Orthodoxy or Protestantism for that matter, regardless of how “father” is respectively defined. Second, what is important is whether the Catholic or any other person claiming patristic support has principles to coherently and consistently explain why this patristic view is out and others are in. If such principles are to be had, then merely noting that Catholics (or Orthodox) don’t agree with every expression of every father is irrelevant.

It might be fair to press Catholics on the assumption of Mary in Scripture and early post-apostolic tradition, but then it is also equally fair to press Protestants on Confessional doctrines like divine simplicity and the Filioque, which either completely lack scriptural justification or whose exegesis rests on certain unscriptural ideas from Platonic philosophical theology. Plenty of Protestant scholars, conservative or liberal admit that these doctrines that are Confessional doctrines in the doctrine of God and the Trinity (no small area of theology I’d think) lack sufficient or any scriptural justification. These are easily found just as easily, if not more so than Catholic scholars who question or undermine the historical basis for distinctively Catholic claims.

If you aren’t going to protest your own confessional statements when they clearly teach unscriptural doctrines that violate other confessional doctrines like Sola Scriptura, I think one needs to not complain about apparent inconsistencies in the area of doctrinal foundations in other traditions. Pull the log out first.

David Waltz said...

Hi Perry,

Excellent post; you make some solid/cogent observations, such as the following:

>>The question as it seems to be can’t be whether Clement or any other source speaks of “justification [as] received through faith.” That is not specific enough to pick out what the Reformers meant by that phrase. Here is why. The doctrine of Sola Fide when phrases like the above are meant have a distinct conceptual content. It is possible to use that kind of phraseology and not have the Reformation conceptual content in mind.>>

Me: I made a similar point to Jason earlier; fact is Clement’s language concerning faith and justification can be accepted/endorsed by just about every theological school of thought.

You also posted:

>> If you aren’t going to protest your own confessional statements when they clearly teach unscriptural doctrines that violate other confessional doctrines like Sola Scriptura, I think one needs to not complain about apparent inconsistencies in the area of doctrinal foundations in other traditions. Pull the log out first.>>

Me: AMEN !!!


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

Perry,
I am just curious, why do you use the Emperor Palpatine, Dark lord Sith, Sidious, as your Avatar?

nilesh mahapatra said...

Hey,
I agree a historical source doesn't have to touch upon every related issue, but depending on the issue we can expect certain related doctrines to follow somewhere or another in that author's thought. The only alternative is that the author was clueless on the 'clear teaching' of Scripture and/or was incapable of systematic theology above a surface level.......Thank's

Quran

Michael Gormley said...

DO YOU PLAY RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH YOUR SALVATION?

Abide in Me, and I in You...


Jesus said:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you."
(John 15:1-7)

Wow! In those seven verses, the word ABIDE is mentioned seven times. The context of those verses provides us with a lot of light as to what is required of us by GOD for our eternal salvation.

Jesus said:
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)

So we must not only ABIDE in Him but we must also strive to enter by the narrow gate. If we do not ABIDE in Him, then it is obvious that we are not on the path to the narrow gate of salvation, but on the path to the wide gate and to eternal destruction.

So Jesus said that if we do not ABIDE in Him (the Vine) then we will be taken away from the Vine by the Father, and will be cast off only to wither, to be gathered, and then to be thrown into the fire and burned.

Now that I have your attention, shouldn't we now find the meaning of the word ABIDE?

The theological meaning of ABIDE is to dwell within. Jesus would come and dwell in us and we likewise in Him. So as long as we do what Jesus requests of us then we are on the path to the narrow gate to salvation.

So to assure that we are on right path, Jesus has commanded that we must ABIDE in Him.

What is required in order to have Jesus ABIDE in us and we in Him?

Can we do it:

1. By accepting Him as our our own personal Lord and Savior ?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

2. By the grace of GOD only? Sola Gracias?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

3. By faith in GOD alone? Sola Fides?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

It is simple common sense that since He commanded that we must do something, then doesn't it stand to reason that He would also tell us how to do it?

Jesus was very clear in what we must do in order to have Him ABIDE in us and we in Him.

Jesus left this command for us in John 6:53-57:

53 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (the taken away branch);

54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

56 HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD ABIDES IN ME, AND I IN HIM.

57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."