Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Does the Roman Catholic Church teach either Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism? - When facts and objectivity take a 'backseat' to polemics


As I mentioned in my last post, "I have been in one of my intense reading modes", but I am a big fan of tennis, as such, I have been 'multi-tasking' during this 2011 Wimbledon season. Today was the men's quarterfinals and of the four gents I had hoped would advance into the semis, only one did so (Andy Murray). I was a bit 'bummed' by the other outcomes, and not in much of a mood to continue today's studies, so I thought I would check in on some of the apologetics sites that have been of interest to me. Those familiar with my blog are aware of my past interest in the Beggars All blog, especially those threads that reflect on Catholicism. With the departure of John Bugay, the number of anti-Catholic threads at BA seemed to have dropped off the high level of intensity that persisted during John's presence as a "contributor", but the month of June has seen a significant upturn in polemical threads directed at Catholicism (many, but certainly not all, revolve around the Vulgate version of the Bible). I went back through the new threads posted at BA over the last three weeks and counted no less than 19 threads devoted to one aspect or another of BA's negative stance on Catholicism; of those 19 threads 2 in particular caught my attention: Orange and Trent and In Catholic theological anthropology, human nature is not selfish or sinful; human nature is good.

These two threads touch on an issue that I have spent of good deal of time researching: whether or not the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church (i.e. doctrine delineated in the accepted Catholic councils) is either Pelagian or semi-Pelagian.

In the Orange and Trent thread penned by Ken Temple, we read:

“Semi-Pelagianism condemned at Orange in 529 AD, but reaffirmed at Trent” (1545-1563) (Basically, the essence of statements by Bavinck, Berkouwer, and Sproul; see below)


Ken then links to two "articles that focus on the beneficial canons of the Council of Orange that Protestant Reformers also emphasized in their battles against the false doctrines of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism and how the Council of Trent is contradictory to much of the council of Orange."

It seems that Ken has pretty much relied on the conclusions drawn by the above two articles, along with those of R. C. Sproul; unfortunately, many of those conclusions are fundamentally flawed. I am going to focus on Sproul in this thread, for I have read a good deal of Sproul's treatments on this subject, and have already touched on some of his skewed assessments here at AF. Once again from Orange and Trent we read:

Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification, by R. C. Sproul. Baker, 1995.

In chapter 7, entitled “Merit and Grace”, R. C. Sproul discusses the issues of merit and grace, Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, the Council of Orange in 529 AD and the council of Trent (1545-1463), which seems to affirm semi-Pelagianism.

“Rome has repeatedly been accused of condemning semi-Pelagianism at Orange [in 529 AD] but embracing it anew at Trent. Herman Bavinck held that “although semi-Pelagianism had been condemned by Rome, it reappeared in a ‘roundabout way’”. G. C. Berkouwer observed:


“Between Orange and Trent lies a long process of development, namely, scholasticism, with its elaboration of the doctrine of the meritoriousness of good works, and the Roman system of penitence . . .”


Bavinck and Berkouwer are cited by Sproul in Faith Alone, pages 140-141.


I touched on Sproul's Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification in my thread, An Evangelical Critique of R. C. Sproul's "Faith alone", but address the issue of semi-Pelagianism more directly the thread, Why terminology is important, which interacts with Sroul's subsequent book, Willing to Believe (1997). [BTW, Sproul has certainly misread Berkouwer concerning his reflections on Trent and its relationship to Orange and semi-Pelagianism; hope to post a thread on this in the near future.]

I do not wish to duplicate the entire thread here, so I shall focus on but one of Sproul's faulty assessments; Sproul penned (provided in the above thread):

The classic issue between Augustinian theology and all forms of semi-Pelagianism focuses on one aspect of the order of salvation (ordo salutis): What is the relationship between regeneration and faith? Is regeneration a monergistic or synergistic work? Must a person first exercise faith in order to be born again? Or must rebirth occur before a person is able to exercise faith? Another way to state the question is this: Is the grace of regeneration operative or cooperative?


Dr. Sproul is just plain wrong here, and I clearly pointed this out in the same thread:

...a careful reading of the historical context of the birth of semi-Pelagianism reveals a much different landscape. And what is disconcerting to me, is that Sproul, in his Willing To Believe, has obviously read the history behind the emergence of semi-Pelgaianism, as well as the early Church’s reaction to it. Sproul in pages 69-76 gives a brief, but for the most part, accurate portrayal of the rise of semi-Pelagianism, citing three esteemed authorities, whose primary discipline is that of Christian history: Philip Schaff, Adolf von Harnack and Reinhold Seeberg. Yet amazingly, Sproul, in spite of the very quotes he provides from these scholars, misses THE KEY INGREDIENT which distinguishes semi-Pelagianism from all forms of Augustinianism! That KEY INGREDIENT is this:

Semi-Pelaganianism teaches that an individual apart from grace can accept the offer of salvation, and that once accepted one then cooperates with the grace that God gives. In other words, semi-Pelagianism denies the necessity of grace for one to believe/accept the gospel.


While Pelagianism denies that ANY grace is necessary for salvation (both before and after the acceptance of the Gospel), semi-Pelagainism only denies that grace is necessary for one to accept the gospel.


Note the following:

SEMI-PELAGIANISM. The doctrines on human nature upheld in the 4th and 5th cents. by a group of theologians who, while not denying the necessity of *Grace for salvation, maintained that the first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and Grace supervened only later. (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd ed. 1974 - 1985 reprint, p. 1258.)


SEMI-PELAGIANISM. Doctrines, upheld during the period from 427 to 529, that rejected the extreme views of Pelagius and of Augustine in regards to the priority of divine grace and human will in the initial work of salvation...


Cassian [one of the early leaders of semi-Pelagianism] taught that though a sickness is inherited through Adam's sin, human free will has not been entirely obliterated. Divine grace is indispensable for salvation, but does not necessarily need to precede a free human choice, because, despite the weakness of human volition, the will takes the initiative toward God [apart from supernatural grace]. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1984, p. 1000.)


Sproul in Willing to Believe even quotes the following from Dr. Philip Schaff (History of the Christian Church) which affirms the above:

In opposition to both systems he taught that the divine image and human freedom were not annihilated, but only weakened, by the fall; in other words, that man is sick, but not dead, that he cannot indeed help himself, but that he can desire the help of a physician, and either accept or refuse it when offered, and that he must cooperate with the grace of God in his salvation. The question, which of the two factors has the initiative, he answers, altogether empirically, to this effect: that sometimes, and indeed usually, the human will, as in the cases of the Prodigal Son, Zacchaeus, the Penitent Thief, and Cornelius, determines itself to conversion; sometimes grace anticipates it, and, as with Matthew and Paul, draws the resisting will—yet, even in this case, without constraint—to God. Here, therefore, the gratia praeveniens is manifestly overlooked. (Sproul, Willing, p. 74; Schaff, History, 3.861)


How Dr. Sproul could miss THE key distinguishing feature after citing the above is quite baffling to me. That Ken and so many others mistakenly attribute the charge of semi-Pelagianism to the Roman Catholic Church, seemingly relying on such flawed assessments, comes as no surprise to me.


Grace and peace,

David

35 comments:

@GodnChzburgers said...

Very nice breakdown of the issue. As a Catholic, I am always baffled by charges that the Church supports or teaches the very heresies she fought against.

Stevo said...

If I'm understanding correctly, the implication is that the RCC denies "that an individual apart from grace can accept the offer of salvation, and that once accepted one then cooperates with the grace that God gives."?

@GodnChzburgers said...

Let me try to clarify:

We are saved by grace alone. Grace is a gift we can only receive by freely choosing to accept it. Once we accept this gift only we, through sin, can elect to reject it.

Continual cooperation with God is what allows us to remain in a state of grace.

"Without the help of grace, men would not know how "to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1889)

Stevo said...

GodnChzburgers:

Hmm, so David said: "That Ken and so many others mistakenly attribute the charge of semi-Pelagianism to Roman Catholic Church, seemingly relying on such flawed assessments, comes as no surprise to me."

It seems that David identifies the flawed assessment of semi-Pelagianism, which gives rise to mistakenly attributing semi-Pelagianism to the RCC, as the failure to state a key element in semi-Pelagian thought; namely, "that an individual apart from grace can accept the offer of salvation, and that once accepted one then cooperates with the grace that God gives."

The implication is that the RCC doesn't teach this, and since this is a defining aspect of semi-Pelagianism, then the RCC cannot be accurately described as 'semi-Pelagian.'

But, you say (speaking for the RCC) that grace is only received if we freely accept it. This seems semi-Pelagian in the following way: If grace is only received if we freely accept it, then "an individual apart from grace can accept the offer of salvation", since 'free choice' will always precede the reception of some grace, even prevenient grace.

@GodnChzburgers said...

That is part of the mystery. However, you are attempting to separate God's grace and salvation. God's grace is salvific.

The fact that we choose to accept God's grace does not eliminate the fact that we are predisposed to the reception of this grace solely by the merits of those won by Christ on the Cross.

The Council of Trent, in one of the the infallible decrees renouncing semi-Pelagianism said:

"It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace; so that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in His sight.

Hence, when it is said in the sacred writings:
Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you,[Zach 1:3] we are reminded of our liberty; and when we reply:
Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted,[Lam 5:21] we confess that we need the grace of God." (Council of Trent, Session 6, ch. 5)

More on the Church's teaching can be found by reading the second Council of Orange (can. 5, 10, and 18) and the Council of Trent (Session 6, chs. 5, 6, 8, and 13).

Hope this helps and I apologize if my "clarification" did more to muddy than "clarify."

David Waltz said...

Thanks much. As I said in my opening post, I have spent a good deal of time and effort researching this topic, trying my best to be fair and objective with those on both sides of the issue. My conclusion that the RCC's official teaching on the matter is neither Pelagian, nor semi-Pelagian seems to be the more accurate read of the situation. Some Protestant scholars agree with me here, arguing that the RCC position is better described as 'semi-Augustinian'—with this I concur.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Stevo,

You posted:

>>It seems that David identifies the flawed assessment of semi-Pelagianism, which gives rise to mistakenly attributing semi-Pelagianism to the RCC, as the failure to state a key element in semi-Pelagian thought; namely, "that an individual apart from grace can accept the offer of salvation, and that once accepted one then cooperates with the grace that God gives."

The implication is that the RCC doesn't teach this, and since this is a defining aspect of semi-Pelagianism, then the RCC cannot be accurately described as 'semi-Pelagian.'

But, you say (speaking for the RCC) that grace is only received if we freely accept it. This seems semi-Pelagian in the following way: If grace is only received if we freely accept it, then "an individual apart from grace can accept the offer of salvation", since 'free choice' will always precede the reception of some grace, even prevenient grace.>>

I see that @GnC has responded to this, but I would like to add a few more thoughts...

Catholics agree with Arminian Protestants that in the Fall, mankind did not loose libertarian will (i.e. "free will"), and that the acceptance of the Gospel precedes regeneration (i.e. "born again"). Both Catholics and Arminian Protestants also teach what is termed gratia praeveniens (prevenient grace - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevenient_grace), and that without this grace, no one would accept the Gospel.

IMHO, the teaching that man has libertarian will and yet needs the gratia praeveniens from God in order to accept (or reject) the Gospel is part of the "mystery" that @GnC speaks of.

Now, with all that said, one cannot ignore the fact that Trent rejected the semi-Pelagian teaching that one CAN accept the Gospel without the supernatural aid of God's gratia praeveniens, and this, IMO makes the charge that the RCC is semi-Pelagian empty and without merit.


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

It wouldn't matter if the Catholic Church teaches that man's nature is still naturally good after the Fall, as alleged in the referenced material in the opening post. For the record, the Church teaches that we are wounded, which acknowledges weakness while denying total depravity.

But we could be as innocent as Adam and Eve in the Garden and we still could not perform an act of faith, hope, or charity without participating in the divine nature. It was by grace that Adam and Eve could have hoped to see God...even BEFORE the Fall. Faith is completely outside of the natural order according to Catholic theology and good human nature doesn't deify the soul, which is what it means to have eternal life, go to heaven, or see God to mention four different ways of describing salvation. We have to have God's nature to be saved. Perfect human nature would never do.

This is why it is so important to comprehend what the Angel meant in addressing the future Mother of God, "Hail, full of grace." Protestants get all excited because Catholics teach that Mary didn't sin. What's the big deal? Merely not sinning is nothing compared to being "full of grace"!

And that was before the Lord lived inside of her for nine months. Oh yeah... They think "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" was certainly aimed at helping us know that even should the eternal God physically dwell inside of you...you must sin because of St. Paul to the Romans. As if the Apostle was trying to address such a unique circumstance as that! Good night, I wonder how these people think the inhabitants of heaven manage to be sinless if they think such an intimate proximity to God as that unique one which Mary enjoyed must be understood only in light of Romans 3:23?

Any act of faith requires grace, and only an act of faith merits justification, therefore grace is necessary for initial justification as well as the perseverence necessary to be finally saved.

Rory said...

In Part One of the Second Part, q. 109, articles 2, St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica answers the question, "Whether man can will or do any good without grace?"

I contended boldly that not only do sinful men need grace to have initial justification, but even our sinless first parents required saving grace. Following is where St. Thomas confirms my affirmation:

"The Apostle says (Romans 9:16): "It is not of him that willeth," namely, to will, "nor of him that runneth," namely to run, "but of God that showeth mercy." And Augustine says (De Corrept. et Gratia ii) that "without grace men do nothing good when they either think or wish or love or act."

I answer that, Man's nature may be looked at in two ways: first, in its integrity, as it was in our first parent before sin; secondly, as it is corrupted in us after the sin of our first parent. Now in both states human nature needs the help of God as First Mover, to do or wish any good whatsoever, as stated above (Article 1). But in the state of integrity, as regards the sufficiency of the operative power, man by his natural endowments could wish and do the good proportionate to his nature, such as the good of acquired virtue; but not surpassing good, as the good of infused virtue."

Note how St. Thomas distinguishes the good "proportionate to his nature", acquired virtue vs.the good of "infused virtue", the supernatural virtues must be infused from God because they do not occur naturally even in the first sinless man. Adam of course was completely innocent and was just like his offspring after the Fall in neither state could a man will or do the good which is "surpassing", the good that elevates human nature.

If the Reformed interpreters of the Council of Trent at Beggar's All thinks the Catholic Church is semi-Pelagian with regards to fallen man I have news for them. We don't even believe in semi-Pelagianism for a sinless man! I wonder if they can say that? They probably think all you need to be to go to heaven is sinless. Far from it. Human nature must be elevated by the infused virtues, which since they come from God, are called by Catholics, the Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. These are the virtues which elevate man's nature, making it "surpassing", which were as necessary for sinless Adam as for fallen Adam.

St. Thomas continues and his clear, precise words need little interpretation:

"And thus in the state of perfect nature man needs a gratutitous strength superadded to natural strength for one reason, that is, in order to do and will supernatural good; but for two reasons in the state of corrupt nature, namely, in order to be healed, and beyond this in order to carry out works of supernatural virtue, which are meritorious. Furthermore in both states man needs the Divine help, that he may be moved to act well."

(For sake of time I copied the first paragraph cited as written off of the internet. My translation replaces the word "will" for wish. Also, there are blue highlights and underlining that appear when copied from the internet. I am hoping these will be filtered out when posted to the blog. We shall see.)

Rory

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Would like to thank you for contributing two excellent posts. I think the following you wrote was a concise and ‘spot-on’ summation of the Catholic position:

>>Any act of faith requires grace, and only an act of faith merits justification, therefore grace is necessary for initial justification as well as the perseverence necessary to be finally saved.>>

And, as you well know, the above is certainly not semi-Pelagian.

I also appreciated the quote from Aquinas, which certainly represents the Catholic view. Hopefully, any of the Reformed folk who may be reading this thread will realize that Dr. Sproul, and all others who charge the RCC with teaching semi-Pelagianism, will “reform” their position!


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

If you read my article, "Between Orange and Trent", I was focusing on the belief that water baptism in itself gives grace; that it is the sacramentalism of baptism regeneration that shows that at Orange in 529, it said that grace is given to one who is baptized, and most RCs are baptized as infants, and Trent re-affirmed that as "initial justification" and condemned justification by faith alone and also has all the other centuries of other traditions and sacraments added on.

So, since we don't think there is any power to water baptism to give grace in reality, it is semi-Pelagian in the sense that it is a human work of the priests and parents who are going something to the child (a human work) and thinking that they are getting grace for the child.

The child has no knowledge of sin or repentance, and so when they are older, they are assumed to have already been justified by the grace of baptism and they can then do good works because they have the ability to cooperate then and "merit for themselves and for others” salvation - which the Catechism does say.

Roman Catholic Catechism - 2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion.

[that part sounds good; but the second part sounds like ability to cooperate and “merit for ourselves” is just downright works-merit sounding]

Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.


2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion.

[that part is against Pelagianism, which we agree that the issue of the Reformation was not the necessity of grace but the sufficiency of grace. The second part sounds like semi-Pelagianism]

Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

These statements seem pretty semi-Pelagian.

Since the initial grace is obtained by sacraments, which are external things, from a Protestant perspective, it still seems to affirm semi-Pelagianism in a different way and “roundabout way”.

The development of sacramentalism over the centuries between Augstine/Orange to Trent - all the other sacramentalism after Orange - that grace is dispensed by the priest and the church by confession, penance, priestly absolution, treasury of merit, praying to Mary and the saints, relics, pilgrimages, partaking of the Eucharist, indulgences, etc. - faith is assumed and ability to have faith and ability to choose and cooperate is assumed because the cradlle Catholics "get grace" at infant baptism – slavery to sin and the sense of inability and the need for grace is pushed back psychologically to infancy, where there is no memory. It becomes practically a works oriented salvation because of this. This is probably what Berkouwer meant by “semi-Pelagianism came back in a round about way”. Since we Protestants don't believe that baptism in water has any power to give grace in reality, from our perspective, it is really semi-Pelagianism as there really is no reality of grace from praying to Mary or the Eucharist or other works and deeds in Roman Catholic sacramentalism.

@GodnChzburgers said...

That is part of the problem with Protestantism, not all feel the same concerning the regenerative nature of baptism despite the fact that Jesus Himself makes it clear to Nicodemus and Peter confirms this when he says "baptism now saves you."

And as for the Eucharist, reread the Bible but pay attention because you missed a few things.

Ken said...

"You must be born again of water and Spirit" is not talking about water baptism, but about the internal cleansing that God will do to His people who repent and believe in Christ - Ezekiel 36:26-27 - Jesus proves this by rebuking Nicodemus for not understanding what He was talking about. "I will cleanse you from your idols" (in your heart - see Ezekiel 14:1-6 and 6:9 where Ezekiel is rebuking Israel for having adulterous hearts and idols in their hearts. So the "water" of John 3:5 is about the spiritual cleansing from an evil idolatrous heart that can only be changed and cleansed by the Holy Spirit - in the new birth. And this internal cleansing only happens for those who believe in Christ - Acts 15:9 - "cleansing their hearts by faith".

Water baptism is an external symbol of the inward reality of repentance and testimony - "an appeal to God for a good conscience" - I Peter 3:21 - "baptism now saves you" is not the RC meaning - rather, Peter clearly says, so they don't misunderstand, "NOT the removal of dirt from the flesh"; ie, not an external rite of washing in physical water that cleanses the flesh but doesn't cleanse the heart.

These wrong interpretations of John 3:5 and I Peter 3:21 stuck for centuries until Luther and Zwingli and Calvin awakened many from the dead sacramentalism and dogmatism of the Roman Catholic Church.

Jesus clearly means by "this is My body" and "this is My blood" is that "this bread and wine represents My body and blood" - BECAUSE He is right there in the flesh in His incarnated fleshly body at the Last Supper when He says those words. So, there is no hint of any RC transubstantiation or physical presence in the bread and wine. Believers grow closer to the Lord and experience a spiritual presence of the Lord Jesus by confession of sin and partaking by faith in the Lord's Supper of His once for all in history atonement and once for all time sacrifice. (Hebrews chapters 7, 9, 10; I Peter 3:18; Romans 6:10)

That Trent reaffirmed these human traditions is a testimony to how the RC strayed from the word of God and has still condemned itself to this day by being under the anathema of Galatians 1:8-9 and this is also proved by Ignatius Lloyola's ridiculous statement: "if the church says something is black, but it appears to your eyes as white, you must believe it is black."

The sacramentalism of RCC between Orange to Trent is very sad indeed.

@GodnChzburgers said...

The length that Protestants will go never ceases to amaze. Because if what you said were true then you just made Jesus out to be a liar and a false prophet as it would mean that the gates of hell prevailed against His Church: Catholicism is fanned and Protestantism can't even agree on the nature of Christ, salvation or even how the Bible came to be.

I will cor you before Our Eucharistic Lord.

Rory said...

I don't think it is helpful in determining whether Catholics are semi-Pelagian to discuss the Real Presence or baptismal regeneration. For sake of argument, let us grant that the Catholic Church is wrong (along with Lutherans, Anglicans, and the Churches of the East) on these matters.

What is it about Semi-Pelagian thought that is troublesome? I suggest that what bothers most of us is that man gets the credit and some degree of glory for having preferred God to himself apart from grace. I am open to better ways of expressing why few of us want to be associated with semi-Pelagianism. Neither Sts. Augustine, Aquinas, nor the Council of Trent nor any knowledgable Catholic wants to be placed in the company of Pelagius or his moderate successors.

But even though Catholics are wrong (as we grant for sake of argument) about how to interpret baptism and the Lord's Supper, one must take into consideration Catholic teaching on the Sacraments before anyone could determine whether the Catholic error makes man the initiator of justification instead of God.

It seems like it would be useless to proceed any further along this line before fielding objections to my proposition about what disturbs any Christian about Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. Whether Catholics are right or wrong doesn't really go to the question of whether they are semi-Pelagian. The question is regarding what the Catholic Church teaches, and therefore it doesn't matter what Protestants think about the nature of the Sacraments, but what the Catholic Church thinks. In order to determine whather a Catholic error in regards to baptismal regeneration makes them semi-Pelagian, it wouldn't take us anywhere to apply non-Catholic principle of the nature if Sacraments to the formula. If Catholic theology is semi-Pelagian, it isn't because mixed with a dose of Protestant theology it BECOMES semi-Pelagian. One would have to consider Catholic theology alone and in its entirety in determining whather Cathiolics are semi-Pelagain as charged.

Rory

Ken said...

I will cor you . . . " ???

cor = heart in Latin.

I will heart you before our Eucharistic Lord" ??

pray ? Some kind of Latin liturgy thing?

The Gates of hades [death] never prevails against the church [the body of Christ of His elect among all the nations], but it is obvious that some historical visible churches disappeared [North Africa, = Carthage, etc. - and Ephesus and the seven churches in Rev. 2-3 - Galatia, Cappadocia, Colossea, - they are all gone today, snuffed out by Islam. (except a small Orthodox church established later in Smyrna in modern times. That they reject the Pope's authority would be contradictory to the RC idea of that promise also. )

That is not a contradiction to Matthew 16:16-18.

The RC did not become totally apostate until the Council of Trent (1545-1563) condemned justification by faith alone.

By that time, the Protestant churches were well established, so Jesus in not a liar, as you accuse us of being the logical result of our belief that the RCC is wrong and anathematized itself at the Council of Trent.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks much for taking the time to contribute to the discussion. My time for the internet is very limited during this extended 4th of July weekend, so my comments for now must be brief (will have much more time Tuesday—hope you will be able to ‘stick-around’ until then).

In your July 2nd post you wrote:

>>If you read my article, "Between Orange and Trent", I was focusing on the belief that water baptism in itself gives grace; that it is the sacramentalism of baptism regeneration that shows that at Orange in 529, it said that grace is given to one who is baptized, and most RCs are baptized as infants, and Trent re-affirmed that as "initial justification" and condemned justification by faith alone and also has all the other centuries of other traditions and sacraments added on.

So, since we don't think there is any power to water baptism to give grace in reality, it is semi-Pelagian in the sense that it is a human work of the priests and parents who are going something to the child (a human work) and thinking that they are getting grace for the child.>>

Me: Sacramentalism and baptismal regeneration ARE NOT teachings that separate Augustinianism from Pelagianism and/or semi-Pelagianism—Augustine embraced BOTH! Did you read the authorities I cited who/which provided the historically based definition/s of semi-Pelagianism? Do you agree with them? If so, then you have not shown that the RCC is semi-Pelagian; if not, please provide the definition of semi-Pelagianism that you rely/work upon.

Since my time is limited right now, I would like to encourage you to read my two threads under the BAPTISM label: LINK; I think they are germane to this current discussion.

Hope to ‘see’ you Tuesday, the Lord willing…


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

The First Part of the Second Part, question 114 is comprised of ten articles answering objects and speculations contrary to the Catholic teaching on what it means to merit something from God.

St. Thomas begins with Scripture while disputing the over-simplistic assertion that man may merit nothing from God.

"On the contrary, It is written (Jeremiah 31:16): 'There is a reward for thy work.' Now a reward means something bestowed by reason of merit. Hence it would seem that a man may merit from God."

It would be helpful for Protestants who would accuse Catholics of semi-Pelagianism to make themselves familiar with the well-developed theology from which The Council of Trent sprang and the language that it used. The objections raised by the Protestants based on how it "seems" or "sounds" when the Council uses the word, merit, should be based more precisely on what Catholic theology means.

I think our Protestant friends should probably be keenly interested in how Catholics can remove God from being our debtor if we are said to merit anything at all, and particularly eternal life. It is a fair question stated as follows in Art. 1, objection three:

"whoever merits anything from another makes him his debtor; for a man's wage is a debt due to him. Now God is no one's debtor; hence it is written (Romans 11:35): 'Who hath first given to Him, and recompense shall be made to him?' Hence no one can merit anything from God."

St. Thomas replies to this objection by referring to merit and debt as being based on justice between equals. It is a necessary act of justice to repay the debt owed to someone who toils for you. He explains that "justice is simply between those that are simply equal."

So far so good, right? He then continues to discuss merit as it must be understood according to unequal relationships. A child has no right under absolute justice to claim privileges from parents upon whom they are completely dependent regarding all natural goods. No one would argue that parents owe it to their children as absolute debtors to provide them with anything from allowance to automobiles even for works done in the home at the parent's behest. However, it is the parental prerogative to offer to the children, if they please, works whereby they may earn rewards. Most often, the rewards far exceeds the value of the labor. In this way, earthly parents offer children a mirror of the way in which they "merit" rewards from their Father in heaven without at the same time entering into a debt relationship based on simple justice.

Rory said...

Article 2 answers the question, "Whether without grace anyone can merit eternal life?" It is with what was explained in article one that St. Thomas will declare that eternal life is by grace alone "merited". It is because most Protestants insist on interpreting the Catholic understanding of merit, not in the way we would between unequals, like parent and child, but the way we would between employee and employer, that they find it impossible to accept that we may merit grace.

I agree. It is impossible to reconcile grace and merit according to simple justice. Therefore, it would seem to me that if a non-Catholic should propose that Catholics seem Semi-Pelagian, the appearance will be removed when that simplistic view of merit with God is replaced with
the Catholic understanding. It is with this in mind that St. Thomas could freasonably answer the question from article two as follows:

"God ordained human nature to attain the end of eternal life, not by its own strength, but by the help of grace; and in this way its act can be meritorious of eternal life."

It is impossible then, according to Catholic theology, to merit eternal life, except by God's grace and with His strength.

Again he writes:

"...a man receives all his power of well-doing from God, and not from man. Hence a man can merit nothing from God except by His gift, which the Apostle expresses aptly saying (Romans 11:35): 'Who hath first given to Him, and recompense shall be made to him?' But man may merit from man, before he has received anything from him, by what he has received from God."

It seems easy in this way to see that however wrong Protestants may hold Catholics to be about Mary, indulgences, sacraments, or popes, they cannot be guilty of semi-Pelagianism. I had thought it would be deemed sufficient to demonstrate that among Catholics, even sinless humans must have grace to gain eternal life. If the sinless may only be saved by grace, how could we think that sinners can do something? But I do understand the objection based on the use of the word merit. Thankfully, St. Thomas adequately puts that objection to rest.

Ken said...

David,
Thanks and glad to see you back posting some articles! I missed your challenges for the past months.

Augustine's "sacramentalism" was very minimal compared to what developed between Orange and Trent, and what caused Waldo (though I admit I don't know much about that movement, and if it had heterodox views on other things mixed with good things), Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Calvin, Bucer, Farel, etc. to protest against it.

This demonstrates the truth of the often quoted statement by B. B. Warfield, “For the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine's doctrine of grace over Augustine's doctrine of the Church. “ (Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, p. 321-322)

I have no more time to think about or comment on Rory's post about Aquinas right now, but Lord willing, another day.

Lvka said...

I doubt that the Holy Fathers (like Saint John Cassian) taught such aberrations...

On Semi-Pelagianism:

I don't think it means what you think it means...

The fact that God gave us a conscience, reason, and even revelation, these are graces of God. God wants to see how we respond to these initial graces. How we multiply our talents.

Ken said...

Don't know about Eastern Orthodoxy, but

How can the Roman Catholic Church say that John Cassian was both a saint and a heretic who held to semi-Pelagianism?

The usual historical synopsis of him seem to say he is both. how can that be?

Sean Patrick said...

I get a kick out of Reformed Protestants claiming Orange AD 529 which is explicit on Baptismal Regeneration and explicitly Calvinism, prophetically.

Council of Orange: According to the catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul. We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.

Versus...John Calvin: By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death (Institutes 3:21:5)

And, We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless but at the same time, incomprehensible, judgment. (3:21:7)

Sean Patrick said...

Oops.

^ should read "explicitly against Calvinism, prophetically."

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ken,

While I continue to wait for you answer to the following that I requested earlier-

“Did you read the authorities I cited who/which provided the historically based definition/s of semi-Pelagianism? Do you agree with them? If so, then you have not shown that the RCC is semi-Pelagian; if not, please provide the definition of semi-Pelagianism that you rely/work upon.” –

I would like to comment on the following you wrote on July 3rd:

>>The RC did not become totally apostate until the Council of Trent (1545-1563) condemned justification by faith alone.>>

Me: Do you remember my posts on Dr. Charles Hodge’s reflection on the RCC and Trent’s teaching on justification? Here is a portion from THIS THREAD:

==It is easy to see here the unhappy blending of justification and sanctification together; but it is a far better statement of the truth than is to be found in multitudes of Arminian writers ; and unspeakably better than that, which for a hundred years, was preached from the great majority of the pulpits in the Church of England. Romanists teach that Christ is the meritorious ground of our justification. Thus the council of Trent, sess. vi. c. 7, says : Meritoria (causa) est diledissimus Dei unic/enitus, qui cum csseinus inimici, per nimiam caritatem, qua dilexit nos, sua sanctissima passione in Urjno crucis, nobis justificadonem meruit. And in c 8, the council say: “Christum sanctissima sua passione in ligno crucis nobis justificationem meruisse, et pro nobis Deo Patri safisfecisse, et neminem posse essejustum, nisi cui mertta passionis Domini nostril Jcsu Christi communicantur.” In like manner, Bellarmin, de Justificatione, ii. c. 2, says : “We are justified on account of the merits of Christ ;” and in c 7, he says, “If Protestants only mean that the merits of Christ are imputed to us, because they are given to us by God, so that we can present them to the Father for our sins since Christ undertook to make satisfaction for us, and to reconcile us to God the Father, they are right.” Which is precisely what we do mean. (Charles Hodge, Discussions In Church Polity, 1876, pp. 208, 209.)==

I recommend all three threads under the “Charles Hodge” LABEL: LINK.

I would also encourage you to read the following thread:

A Catholic affirmation/understanding of “faith alone”


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Ken asks:

"How can the Roman Catholic Church say that John Cassian was both a saint and a heretic who held to semi-Pelagianism?

The usual historical synopsis of him seem to say he is both. how can that be?"

Answer:

The Church cannot condemn someone for heresy before the heresy is exposed by the Church.

Look at the Trinitarian doctrines prior to the Council of Nicea. God doesn't hold His people accountable for not knowing theology that is as yet undefined. Is Moses in Hell unless he could recite the Nicene Creed? Did David need to hold to papal infallibility? Did St. Augustine? No. Sanctity is based on supernatural charity not adherence to as yet undefined teachings of the Church? St. John Cassian lived at a time when it was permitted to teach and believe what he taught and believed.

Ken said...

Thanks Rory - that helped explain that situation for me.

David,
I am busy for the next few days, but I will try to answer your questions in a few days - next week sometime.

Tap said...

If i can add to that, actually its not even entirely clear that St Cassian taught semi-pelagianism, although some of his Spiritual grandchildren did, But that's no different than St. Augustine teachings which where taking to the extreme by fatalist who were also condemned by the Church. For more on John Cassians teaching see. A. Casidays' "Tradition and Theology in St John Cassian"

Ken said...

David,
The rest of Sproul's chapter on Semi-Pelagianism in Willing to Believe actually shows how the Council of Trent and the 1994 Catholic Catechism are ambiguous and unclear and affirm semi-Pelagianism "in a roundabout way" (as Berkower wrote) - he explains the history of Jensen and Pascal and the Jesuits reaction up to and dealing with Trent, and then the Catechism today.

Sproul shows that in the Catechism, page 430 paragraphs 1730-1732 and paragraph 406, p. 103 - that modern RC has actually affirmed semi-Pelagianism.

I would generally agree with the definitions you cited about semi-Pelagianism, but as before, I maintain that the way semi-Pelagianism sneaked back into Rome was through the infant baptism regeneration doctrine and practice and then the addition of all the other sacramentalism and scholasticism of the time between Augustine and Trent.

Since most baptisms are for infants in the RCC, the teaching of the power to choose and cooperate is always there, as they grow and are taught - there is not really a gospel call to dead sinners - they are assumed to be regenerated by the grace of baptism and they then can then keep growing and choosing along the path. In this way semi-Pelagianism sneaked back into the Roman Catholic system.

Even though Rome denies it is semi-Pelagian, it is practically. Even though they deny that they worship Mary, they actually do worship her by exalting and praising her in prayer and calling upon her in prayer, etc. The scholastic justification argumentation of saying we don't give latria but dulia and hyper-dulia are subjective and no way to distinquish worship from them. Also, to say she is a co-mediatrix and yet not contractict 1 Tim. 2:5 is another form of this scholastic argumentation. The RCC does the same thing with infant baptismal regeneration and the power to choose good over evil and cooperate with God in those sections in the Catechism. I am not taking the time right now to copy them and type them all out. You have the rest of Sproul's chapter and the Catechism references in his footnotes, etc. You will see what I mean.

The other stuff - for another time; Lord willing - time to get ready for church.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for getting back to me on this. I don't have much 'free' time today, so my comments for now shall be somewhat brief (hopefully Monday I will be able to go into more death, the Lord willing).

You posted:

>>The rest of Sproul's chapter on Semi-Pelagianism in Willing to Believe actually shows how the Council of Trent and the 1994 Catholic Catechism are ambiguous and unclear and affirm semi-Pelagianism "in a roundabout way" (as Berkower wrote) - he explains the history of Jensen and Pascal and the Jesuits reaction up to and dealing with Trent, and then the Catechism today.>>

Me: Actually, the quote that Trent affirmed semi-Pelagianism "in a roundabout way" is from Bavinck, and not Berkouwer. Here is what Berkouwer actually wrote:

==Bavinck held that although semi-Pelagianism had been condemned by Rome, it reappeared in "a roundabout way." (Gerrit C. Berkouwer, The Conflict With Rome, English trans., David H. Freeman, 1958, p. 77.== [The quote from Bavinck is from Geref. Dogmatick, III, p. 509.]

Berkouwer then spends the next 35 pages demonstrating that Bavinck was wrong on this point, while at the same time defending the Reformed doctrine of man.


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Ken maintains,

"I maintain that the way semi-Pelagianism sneaked back into Rome was through the infant baptism regeneration doctrine and practice and then the addition of all the other sacramentalism and scholasticism of the time between Augustine and Trent..."

I respond:

Ken, you make it sound like there are these multiplied corruptions after St. Augustine that would have appalled him. I think you need to demonstrate what way "sacramentalism" or "scholasticism" is incompatible with St. Augustine. You don't list any except baptismal regeneration. But St. Augustine clearly taught baptismal regeneration.

Let us suppose for sake of argument that St. Augustine would have rejected the Council of Trent. I am not arguing that the Council of Trent was wrong. I am only arguing that it doesn't imply semi-Pelagianism unless one completely redefines the meaning as used by those who disputed with Pelagius and his later proponents.

This is like prosecuting a burglar for drunken driving. You haven't made any connection. Though I have granted for sake of argument that Trent is wrong, I insist that justice doesn't allow you to just willy nilly accusing anybody that is wrong about some things to be wrong about everything.

Hey, maybe the burglars could be arraigned in a future Calvinist State for the heresy of semi-Pelagianism too? It makes about as much sense.

Rory

Agellius said...

So, what happened to Bugay? Any idea why he left BA?

David Waltz said...

Hello Agellius,

You asked:

>> So, what happened to Bugay? Any idea why he left BA?>>

He is now posting his anti-Catholic diatribes on the Triablogue blog. As for why he left BA, I don't know if James Swan asked him to leave, or if he left on his own.


Grace and peace,

David

man with desire said...

Below, we examine the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, so that its members might find the grace of God. The fact is that there are many Roman Catholics who do not yet know Christ. Many of them may, indeed, be quite religious, but they have not yet received Christ into their lives. These people may also regard the Roman Catholic Church as being, "the only right church", or may think that there is no salvation except that inside the Roman Catholic Church, but they still do not understand how they can be saved.
The problem with the Catholic Church is that its rituals and doctrines do not lead people toward knowing the grace and salvation in Christ. Instead, they lead to something else. Over the centuries, this church has been more and more affected by heresies, and nowadays many people are led rather badly astray. Among other examples of errant teachings are Mary, the merits of the saints, compensation acts, sacraments, and purgatory.
We will examine the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church so that everyone might get in connection with God. Our goal is that people find personal salvation and the grace of God in Jesus Christ. You, the reader, may not hold the same opinion, or think about everything in the same way we do. The most important thing for you is to receive the eternal life given to us by God.

http://www.jariiivanainen.net/Jesusandcatholics.html

@GodnChzburgers said...

There is no more personal relationship with Christ than receiving Him Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament just as He desires.