Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Two excellent doctoral dissertations contrasting Catholicism with the Reformed tradition

As my research continues for an upcoming post concerning a defense of the Johannine authorship and historical integrity of the Gospel of John, I sometimes get a bit side-tracked by works that I discover online. The two following doctoral dissertations are the most recent examples.

The first is Leonardo De Chirico's, Evangelical theological perspectives on post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism (LINK). From the abstract we read:

The Second Vatican Council and subsequent ecumenical developments within the Church of Rome have forced Evangelical theology to rethink its own perception and analysis of Roman Catholicism. Against this background, many Evangelical theologians of varying tendencies and with different degrees of depth and insight have attempted to grapple with the new Roman Catholic outlook and the ecumenical challenges it brings. After describing the theological contours of Evangelicalism, the present thesis critically surveys the works on Roman Catholicism by Gerrit Berkouwer, Cornelius Van Til, David Wells, Donald Bloesch, Herbert Carson, and John Stott.

The second contribution is Sarah Timmer's, Receptive Ecumenism And Justification: Roman Catholic and Reformed Doctrine In Contemporary Context (LINK).

This dissertation is an excellent exploration into the doctrine of justification—common elements and differences—as expounded by the Catholic and Reformed traditions. It also includes some reflections on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification document published by Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and Lutheran World Federation in 1999.

Anyway, felt compelled to bring these contributions to the attention of my readers. Back to work on my upcoming apologia on the Gospel of John...

Grace and peace,


Friday, April 28, 2017

Muslim converts breathe new life into Europe’s struggling Christian churches

Whilst engaged in a bit of online browsing this morning, I came across a March 21, 2017 FOX News article that piqued my interest. The following is the opening of the post:

Christianity is making a comeback in Europe – and it’s mostly thanks to Muslims, say experts in Islam and faith leaders.

A soaring number of Muslims, many of them refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are converting to Christianity, breathing new life into Europe’s once floundering Christian churches. The Muslims are flocking to various Christian denominations, experts said, including becoming Protestants, evangelical or Catholic.

As many parts of Europe are becoming more secular and houses of worship are seeing congregants leave in droves, it is Muslim converts who are reviving struggling Christian churches.

The rest of the article can be read HERE.

Grace and peace,



For a reason unknown to me, the link is not working. If other readers are experiencing the same, copy and paste the following link into your browser to access the post:


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mormonism and Margaret Barker - Part 5

Four of my earliest posts here at AF (11/07 thru 01/08) were part of a series titled: Mormonism and Margaret Barker. This post will be the fifth installment of this series.

Yesterday, I received in the mail volume 56.1 (2017) of the BYU Studies Quarterly journal (see this link for full content). This issue included, "a lightly edited transcript of a lecture delivered by Old Testament scholar Margaret Barker at Brigham Young University on November 9, 2016" (p. 75).

Barker's contribution was titled, "The Lord Is One", which is an interesting one, given the primary content of the lecture—deification/theosis in the Bible. This topic of deification/theosis in the Bible is a common theme in a number of Barker's articles, books, and lectures. In part 3 (link) of my aforementioned series, I contrast some of Barker's reflections on deification/theosis with those within the Mormon paradigm. I concluded that post with:

A careful analysis of Barker’s teachings on first Temple deification offers little (if any) resemblance to deification/exaltation in LDS theology. Not only does deification take place prior to ones death and entrance into heaven, deification has nothing to do with the resurrection of the physical body; which is a non-negotiable element of Latter-day Saint deification/exaltation.

The edited transcript of Barker's 11/09/16 lecture presents no new material that would give me cause to change any of my previous assessments contained in the first four installments of this series. Though Barker's contributions are always an interesting read (IMO), her unwavering commitment to a number of liberal presuppositions and theories advanced by critics and skeptics of the Bible makes it extremely difficult for me to embrace, and/or endorse, the general thrust of a number of the conclusions she has reached—e.g. Yahweh is not the one true God of Israel, the "Deuteronomists" changed and corrupted the original teachings of the "First Temple Theology", the king of Israel was "the Lord in human form", et al. (See Barker's website for a listing of all of her contributions; a good number of her published papers are available there for free.)

One glaring flaw contained in the edited transcript is her belief that the, "Deuteronomists also denied the ancient belief that the Lord was seen in human form, what the Christians would later call incarnation" (p. 82). She appeals to Deut. 4:12 to support this belief, stating:

The Deuteronomists, however, said that no divine form was seen, even when Moses received the Ten Commandments: “The Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice” (Deut. 4:12). (Page 82)

Barker is unable (unwilling?) to harmonize Deut. 4:12 with those numerous verses contained in the Bible which state that God was "seen". Why is it that she cannot accomplish what so many other scholars/theologians have done? I cannot help but think that her liberal presuppositions and theories are at play here.

Complicating Barker's assessment is her enlisting of a number of verses from the Gospel of John which she believes contradicts Deut. 4:12, and the so-called teaching of the Deuteronomists. And yet, it is from the writings of John that one finds the strongest statements that God has not been seen, nor can be seen! (See my previous thread for germane references.)

Anyway, I wanted to bring to the attention of my readers this latest contribution by Barker. I am confident that my future posts concerning the visio Dei or vision of God will expose certain weaknesses in Barker's assessments, and also demonstrate that the verses she finds so contradictory are in fact harmonious.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Visio Dei—Vision of God or Beatific Vision: an introduction

The visio Dei or vision of God—also known as the 'Beatific Vision'—is generally understood as the eschatological vision of God that the glorified saints in heaven will be blessed with throughout eternity. The highly regarded, Eastern Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky wrote:

No Christian theologian has ever denied ex-professo that the elect will have a vision of God in the state of final beatitude. This truth is formally attested by the Scriptures: "We shall see him as he is," ὀψόμεθα αὐτὸν καθώς ἐστιν (1 John 3:2). However, it has given rise to different theological developments, all the more so in that the same Scriptures, the same Epistle of St. John (4:12) asserts that, "no one has ever seen God," θεὸν οὐδεὶς πώποτε τεθέαται, and St. Paul states precisely that He cannot be seen (1 Tim. 6:16). (The Vision of God, trans. Asheleigh Moorhouse, 1983, p. 11.)

I hope to explore the issue of "different theological developments" in future posts, so this one will focus on the Scriptural references upon which the concept of the visio Dei is built.

I will start with the words of Jesus Christ who explicitly said: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8 - ASV).

This promised vision of God to the "pure in heart" seems to have reference to the age after the eschatological return of Jesus, for His apostle, John, wrote:

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2 - KJV)

This eschatological vision of God is mentioned in the book of Revelation, wherein it is written that during the age of the "new heaven and earth", the "servants" of God will, "see His face" (Rev. 22:4 - NAS).

The apostle Paul makes reference to the eschatological vision of God in his first epistle to the Corinthians:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor. 13:12 - KJV)

There are also a couple of OT verses which seem to speak of the eschatological vision of God:

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God... (Job 19:26 - NKJ)

As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with beholding thy form. (Psa. 17:15 - ASV)

To discern what this future, eschatological vision of God entails, one must balance the aforementioned verses with two classes of verses which seem to lie in stark opposition to each other: verses which relate that God has been seen in our current age, contrasted with those verses which state that God has not been seen, and cannot be seen. Verses of the first class include the following:

And Jehovah appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto Jehovah, who appeared unto him. (Gen. 12:7 - ASV)

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Gen. 17:1 - ASV)

And Jehovah appeared unto him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; (Gen. 18:1 - ASV)

And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before Jehovah. (Gen. 18:22 - ASV)

And Jehovah appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt. Dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. (Gen. 26:2 - ASV)

And Jehovah appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father. Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake. (Gen. 26:24 - ASV)

And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for, said he, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. (Gen. 32:30 - ASV)

And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, who appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. (Gen. 35:1 - ASV)

And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. (Gen. 35:9 - ASV)

And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me... (Gen. 48:3 - ASV)

Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, hath appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: (Ex. 3:16 - ASV)

That they may believe that Jehovah, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. (Ex. 4:5 - ASV)

And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them. (Ex. 6:2, 3 - ASV)

And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: and they beheld God, and did eat and drink. (Ex. 24:10, 11 - ASV)

And Jehovah spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. (Ex. 33:11 - ASV)

My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house: with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of Jehovah shall he behold: (Num. 12:7, 8a - ASV)

They have heard that thou Jehovah art in the midst of this people; for thou Jehovah art seen face to face, and thy cloud standeth over them, and thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night. (Num. 14:14b - ASV)

For Jehovah is righteous; He loveth righteousness: The upright shall behold his face. (Psa. 11:7)

I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; But now mine eye seeth thee: (Job 42:5)

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts. (Isa. 6:5 - ASV)

Below, are the second class of verses:

And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for man shall not see me and live. (Ex. 33:20)

No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18 - NAS)

And the Father who sent Me, He has borne witness of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. (John 5:37 - NAS)

Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. (John 6:46 - NAS)

He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Tim. 1:15b, 16 - NAS)

No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)

And so, we have before us three classes of verses concerning the vision of God: first, those passages which affirm that God/Jehovah has been seen; second, those which relate that God will be seen; and third, those which state that God cannot be seen.

I suppose some folk will argue that we have before us a contradiction; however, as one who affirms the inerrancy of the Bible, I maintain all the above passages can be harmonized. In fact, they have been competently harmonized by a good number of theologians, though this harmonization has taken on varying forms. In future posts, I hope to explore these differing options (the Lord willing); options which Lossky has described as, "different theological developments".

Grace and peace,


Monday, March 13, 2017

Catholics on deification

Earlier today, in the combox of a recent thread here at AF, an astute reader wrote:

So I think maybe the whole realm of "how does one get saved", hasn't been quite fleshed out properly as the 1st centuries were so focussed on getting Christology right, maybe some of the implications of Jesus' taking up human nature, wasn't thought out fully. This can be seen in that the East & West have diverged on: vicarious atonement vs theosis & divinization and what that means in practise. (LINK)

There is no question that the EO churches have placed a much greater emphasis on the doctrine of "theosis & divinization" (i.e. deification) than the churches within the Latin/Western tradition. However, with that said, there have been a number of Catholic theologians who have embraced the concept of deification. In doing so, they follow a rich tradition found throughout the writings of the Church Fathers (see THIS THREAD). In two prior posts (first; second), I have touched on deification within the Catholic tradition. The following selections will bring to the fore a number of other Catholics who have written on the doctrine:

G. H. Joyce

God, says St. Peter “has given us most great and precious promises that by these you may be made partarkers of the Divine nature (2 Pet. i. 4). Startling as the words are, the teaching which we have already considered will have prepared us for them. They signify that the sonship conferred on us through Jesus Christ raises us so far above our creaturely condition, that by it we partake in the life which is proper to the Three Divine Persons in virtue of Their nature. The passage does not stand altogether alone. When our Lord prays to His Father on behalf of the apostles and all who through their word should believe in Him, “that they all many be one, as Thou, Father in Me and I in Thee, that they may be made perfect in one” (John xvii. 22, 23), His words can hardly signify less than this. If our union with God is comparable to that which unites the Father and the Son, it can only be a union bases on a share in the Divine life...The fathers of the Church from the earliest times with one consent take the apostle’s words in their literal sense. There is no question of any figurative interpretation. They do not hesitate to speak of the “deification” of man. By grace, they tell us, men become gods. (G.H. Joyce, S.J., The Catholic Doctrine of Grace, London: 1920,  pp. 34, 35)

Matthias Joseph Scheeben

If man is to be reunited to God as his Father, God Himself must raise him up again to His side...God must again draw man up to His bosom as His child, regenerate him to new divine life, and again clothe him with the garment of His children, the splendor of His own nature and glory...this transformation of the will is essentially bound up with the inner elevation of our entire being by the grace of divine sonship and participation in the divine nature...The children of God participate as such in the divine holiness of their Father, in His very nature. (Matthis J. Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, B. Herder Book Co.: St. Loius, pp. 615, 616, 617, 619 - emphasis mine - German first ed. 1865; English ed. 1946, translated from the 1941 German ed.)

What we cannot claim by right, the infinite liberality of God gives us in grace. Although we are not by nature the children of God, we become such through grace, and so true is this that, as adopted children, we are put on par with the natural Son of God. We become by grace what He is by nature. What He has in Himself, that we obtain through participation in His nature. (Matthis J. Scheeben, The Glories of Divine Grace, Tan Books, 2000, p. 96.)

“But the Son is not only kindred or similar to the Father, He is one with Him as the branch is one with the tree, the ray of light with the light, the brook with the fountain. So too, grace makes us one with God, not in the same perfect manner [i.e. ‘by nature’], but in a similar way. And yet it is not a question of a mere relationship or similarity, but on an intimate union which makes us, as it were, one being with God” (Ibid., p. 154).

“Thus, when we are united to God by grace [i.e. not ‘by nature’, as is the Son], we not only obtain and direct into our soul a ray of divine glory, a small stream of divine life, but we may also consider as our own the divine Sun itself, the foundation of divine life, and we may rejoice at God’s perfections as though they were ours” (Ibid., p. 158).  

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P

 …we must bear in mind that grace is really and formally a participation in the divine nature precisely in so far as it is divine, a participation in the Deity, in that which makes God God, in His intimate Life…Grace is a mysterious participation in this essence, which surpasses all natural knowledge…Grace makes us participate really and formally in this Deity, in this eminent and intimate life of God, because grace is in us the radical principle of essentially divine operating that will ultimately consist in seeing God immediately, as He sees Himself, and in loving Him as He loves Himself. Grace is the seed of glory. In order to know its essence intimately, we must first have seen the divine essence of which grace is the participation. (Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., Christian Perfection and Contemplation, St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1937 – reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers, 2003, pp. 55, 56.)

The Deity as we know it here on earth contains only implicitly the divine attributes deduced from it. But when we shall see it as it is in itself there will no longer be any need for deduction. We shall see explicitly in the eminence of the Deity, superior to being, to unity, to goodness, all the infinite perfections and the three divine persons. (Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., Our Saviour and His Love For Us, St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1951 – reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers, 1998, pp. 351, 352.)

Lugwig Ott

The Church prays in the Offertory of the Holy Mass : “Grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His divinity, who vouchsafed to become partaker of our humanity.” Similarly in the Preface of the Feast of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven : “He was assumed into Heaven in order that we might be partakers in His divinity.” Cf. D 1021.

According to 2 Peter 1, 4 the Christian is elevated to participation in the Divine nature...Again, the scriptural texts which represent justification as generation or birth from God  (John 1, 12 et seq. ; 3, 5 ; 1 John 3, 1. 9 ; Tit. 3. 5 ; James 1, 18 ; 1 Peter 1, 23), indirectly teach the participation of man in the Divine nature, as generation consists in the communication of the nature of the generator to the generated.

From the scriptural texts cited, and from others (Ps. 81, 1. 6 ; John 10, 34 et seq.), the Fathers derived the teaching of the deification of man by grace (θείωσις, deificatio). It is a firm conviction of the Fathers that God became man so that man might become God, that is, defied. (Dr. Lugwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 256 - German ed. 1952; English 1955.)

George D. Smith

The application of all this to the question of sanctifying grace will be seen more and more as we proceed, but for the present we simply assert the magnificent truth that grace is not only a positive reality in the soul, not only a reality which no created being could produce, but a reality which in itself is higher than the whole order of created things (even angelic) and is truly divine. This brings us at once to a wonderful phrase of St Peter, who says that we are made “partakers of the divine nature.” Catholic theology has ever clung to the belief that here we have no mere figure of speech but the declaration of a definite fact. We really are made to be partakers of the divine nature. It is not merely that our spiritual faculties of intellect and will establish a special likeness to God in our souls; that is true enough, but over and above this natural likeness to God a wholly supernatural quality is given to us which makes us to be of the same nature as God...St Augustine puts the matter thus: He descended that we might ascend, and “whilst retaining his own divine nature he partook of our human nature, that we whilst keeping our own nature, might become partakers of his.” St Thomas Aquinas, echoing the constant teaching of the past, declares in a passage which the Church uses for the feast of Corpus Christi: “the only-begotten Son of God, wishing to make us partakers of his own divinity, took upon himself our human nature that having become man he might make men to be gods.” And we know how the Church has enshrined this wonderful truth in one of the most beautiful of the prayers at Mass. “O God, who in creating human nature, didst marvellously ennoble it, and hast still more marvellously renewed it, grant that by the mysery of this water and wine we may be made partakers of his Godhead, who vouchsafed to become partaker of our humanity, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.” (The Teaching of the Catholic Church, edited by Canon George D. Smith, 1960, volume 1, pp. 553, 554.)

Both St John and St Paul exult in proclaiming this act of divine condescension. “Dearly beloved,” the first writes with all the earnestness of the disciple of love, “we are now the sons of God: and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is. And everyone that hath this hope in him sanctifieth himself.”...In light of such luminous teaching it is clear that is in a very special sense that we are children of God...Sanctifying grace, as we have seen, is a positive reality infused into the soul by which we are made to share the divine life...By sanctifying grace the very life of God is imparted unto them. (Ibid. pp. 556, 557.)

Catherine Mowry LaCugna

Jesus Christ, the visible icon of the invisible God, discloses what it means to be fully personal, divine as well as human. The Spirit of God, poured into our hearts as love, (Rom. 5:5), gathers us together into the body of Christ, transforming us so that “we become by grace what God is by nature,” namely, persons in full communion with God and with every creature. (God For Us, p. 1.)

Saint Joseph Daily Missal

Deus, qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti: da nobis per hujus aquae et vini mysterium, ejus divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus. per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

O GOD, Who established the nature of man in wondrous dignity, and still more admirably restored it, grant that through the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His Divinity, who has condescended to become partaker of our humanity, Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord: Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen. (Saint Joseph Daily Missal, 1961, pp. 660, 661.)

John Paul II

This is the central truth of all Christian soteriology that finds an organic unity with the revealed reality of the God-Man. God became man that man could truly participate in the life of God—so that, indeed, in a certain sense, he could become God. The Fathers of the Church had a clear consciousness of this fact. It is sufficient to recall St. Irenaeus who, in his exhortations to imitate Christ, the only sure teacher, declared: “Through the immense love he bore, he became what we are, thereby affording us the opportunity of becoming what he is.” (John Paul II, Jesus, Son and Savior, 1996, p. 215 - General audience address September 2, 1987.)

John Paul II – Dominum et Vivificantem Thus there is a supernatural “adoption,” of which the source is the Holy Spirit, love and gift. As such he is given to man. And in the superabundance of the uncreated gift there begins in the heart of all human beings that particular created gift whereby they “become partakers of the divine nature.” Thus human life becomes permeated, through participation, by the divine life, and itself acquires a divine, supernatural dimension. (The Encyclicals of John Paul II, p. 318.)

John Paul II - Redemptor Hominis The Church has only one life: that which is given her by her Spouse and Lord. Indeed, precisely because Christ united himself with her in his mystery of Redemption, the Church must be strongly united with each man. This union of Christ with man is in itself a mystery. From the mystery is born “the new man,” called to become a partaker of God’s life. (The Encyclicals of John Paul II, p. 79.)

Second Vatican Council

For Jesus Christ was sent into the world as the true Mediator between God and men. Since He is God, all the fullness of the divine nature dwells in Him bodily (Col. 2:9); as man he is the new Adam, full of grace and of truth (John 1:14) , who has been constituted head of a restored humanity. So the Son of God entered the world by means of a true incarnation that he might make men sharers in the divine nature; though rich, he became poor for our sake, that by his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). (Ad Gentes Divinitus, from Vatican Council II - The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, General Editor, Austin Flannery, O. P., New Revised Edition 1992, p. 815.)

The New Catechism

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 edition, p. 116.)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

[The following quotes are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, provided via the official Vatican website: link.]

460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81

[Footnotes: #78 – 2 Pet 1:4;  #79 – St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,19,1: PG 7/1, 939; #80 – St. Athanasius, De inc., 54,3: PG 25, 192B; #81 – St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57: 1-4 ]

1023 Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face:596

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment - and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven - have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.597

[Footnote #597 – Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000: cf. LG 49]

1721 God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitude makes us "partakers of the divine nature" and of eternal life.21 With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ22 and into the joy of the Trinitarian life.

[Footnotes: #21 – 2 Pet 1:4; Jn 17:3; #22 – Cf. Rom 8:18 ]

1726 The Beatitudes teach us the final end to which God calls us: the Kingdom, the vision of God, participation in the divine nature, eternal life, filiation, rest in God.

1812 The human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues, which adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature:76 for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object.

[Footnote #76 – 2 Pet 1:14 ]

1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ's Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:36 

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.37

[Footnotes: #36 – Cf. 1 Cor 12; Jn 15:1-4; #37 – St. Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1,24: PG 26, 585 and 588 ]

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:48

[Footnote #48 – Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39 ]

And lastly, I must mention a recent book of collected essays by Catholic authors concerning the doctrine of deification:

Grace and peace,


Friday, March 3, 2017

Infant salvation: the Lutheran tradition

This fourth installment of my continuing series on INFANT SALVATION, will examine the conservative Lutheran position, as delineated by Charles Porterfield Krauth. C. P. Krauth was a conservative, 19th century, American Lutheran scholar. I first became aware of Krauth after purchasing his massive book, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (Augsburg Publishing House, 1963 reprint edition), back in 1990s during one of my frequent visits to Powell's Books. The back-flap of the book's dust cover has the following to say about the author:

Charles Porterfield Krauth, 1823-1883, was a parish pastor, teacher, editor, church leader and champion of conservative Lutheranism in America . . . regarded by many as the most eminent Lutheran in America of the 19th century. Through his recognized ability as a public speaker and with his prolific pen—particularly with this volume, considered his magnum opus—he set the stamp of his own theology upon a whole generation and more of American Lutheran ministers. (An in depth, two volume biography is available in an online PDF version, here.)

Krauth's thoughts on infant salvation are referenced in his aforementioned book. The following selections from this contribution will be from the 1875 edition, Google Books PDF version (LINK).

Krauth's theological reflections on infant salvation are inextricably linked to the early Lutheran understanding of the doctrine of 'original sin,' as delineated in the original Augsburg Confession. From Krauth's book we read:

The Article teaches us what original sin would do if there were no redemption provided in Christ. The mere fact that Christ has wrought out His work provides a sufficient remedy, if it be applied, to save every human creature from the effects of original sin. Let not this great fact be forgotten. Let it never be left out of the account in looking at the mystery of original sin, that there is an ample arrangement by which the redemption of every human creature from the results of original sin could be effected ; that there is no lack in God's provision for saving every one of our race from its results. "Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man."

2. It is not the doctrine of our Confession that any human creature has ever been, or ever will be, lost purely on account of original sin. For while it supposes that original sin, if unarrested, would bring death, it supposes it to be arrested, certainly and ordinarily, by the Holy Spirit, through the divine means rightly received, and throws no obstacle in the way of our hearty faith that, in the case of infants dying without the means, the Holy Ghost, in His own blessed way, directly and extraordinarily, may make the change that delivers the child from the power of indwelling sin. Luther, in his marginal note on John xv. 22, says: "Denn durch Christum ist die Erbsünde auffgehaben, und verdamnet nach Christus zukunfft niemand. On wer sie nicht lassen, das ist, wer nicht glenben wil." "Through Christ original sin is annulled, and condemneth no man since Christ's coming, unless he will not forsake it (original sin), that is, will not believe." (Pages 428, 429 - bold emphasis mine.)

Over the next couple of pages, Krauth cites Luther and other early Lutheran theologians concerning the necessity of baptism for salvation. It is deduced that baptism is necessary only when it, "refers to the ordinary mode which God observes in saving men", and that,  "the matter is different in a case of necessity, when any one cannot obtain it" (p. 430).

Krauth then writes:

Both Luther and Bugenhagen discuss at large the argument for, and objections against, the doctrine of the salvation of unbaptized little children, and demonstrate that it is no part of the faith of our Church, that Baptism is absolutely necessary : that is, that there are no exceptions or limitations to the proposition that, unless a man is born again of the Water of Baptism, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Luther and Bugenhagen condemn those who refuse to unbaptized children the rites of Christian burial, and who object to laying their bodies in consecrated ground, as if they were outside of the Church. "We bury them," say they, "as Christians, confessing thereby that we believe the strong assurances of Christ. The bodies of these unbaptized children have part in the joyous resurrection of life." (Pages 432, 433 - bold emphasis mine.)

Earlier in his work, Krauth lists this issue of baptism as one of the doctrines in which the Lutheran Church, "has been mispresented" (p. 129), and then writes:

Baptism. The Lutheran Church holds that it is necessary to salvation to be born again of water (baptism) and the Spirit, (John iii. 5, and Augsburg Confession, Art. II. and IX. ;) but she holds that this necessity, though absolute as regards the work of the Spirit, is, as regards the outward part of baptism, ordinary, not absolute, or without exception ; that the contempt of the sacrament, not the want of it, condemns ; and that though God binds us to the means, he does not bind his own mercy by them. From the time of Luther to the present hour, the Lutheran theologians have maintained the salvability and actual salvation of infants dying unbaptized. (Page 129 - bold emphasis mine.)

I will conclude this post with Krauth's following portrayal—and contrasts—of the Lutheran position on infant salvation:

The truth is, no system so thoroughly as that of the Lutheran Church places the salvation of infants on the very highest ground.

The Pelagian system would save them on the ground of personal innocence, but that ground we have seen to be fallacious. The Calvinistic system places their salvation on the ground of divine election, and speaks elect infants, and hence, in its older and more severely logical shape at least, supposed not only that some unbaptized, but also that some baptized infants are lost. (Page 434.)

Grace and peace,


Monday, February 20, 2017

Infant salvation: a brief survey of the early Patristic period, and reflections on the Reformed tradition, via B. B. Warfield

This is the third installment of my series on Infant salvation. This post will focus on the Reformed tradition, but will also include a brief survey of the early Patristic period, as related by B. B. Warfield in his extended essay, The Development of the Doctrine of Infant Salvation.

Two online PDF versions are available: one is the 1891 booklet - link; the second is from the 1897 book, Two Studies in the History of Doctrine (pp.141-239) - link. The 1897 edition is, "considerably enlarged and in some parts rewritten" (p. iii); all subsequent quotes will be from the latter edition. [Note: footnotes not provided in the following quotations; see PDF version for those references.]

Warfield's treatment begins with a survey of "The Patristic Doctrine" (pp. 144-151), wherein he writes:

The first Christians had no difficulty in understanding and confessing that Christ had come into a world lost in sin to establish a kingdom of righteousness, citizenship in which is the condition of salvation. That infants were admitted into this citizenship they did not question. When the Apologist Aristides, for example, would make known to the heathen how Christians looked upon death, he did not confine himself to saying that "if any righteous person of their number passes away from the world, they rejoice and give thanks to God and follow his body as if he were moving from one place to another," but adds of the infant, for whose birth they (unlike many of the heathen) praised God, "if, again, it chance to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins." Nor did those early Christians doubt that the sole gateway into this heavenly citizenship, for infants too, was not the natural birth of the flesh, but the new birth of the Spirit. Communion with God and the inheritance of life had been lost for all alike, and to infants too were restored only in Christ. (p. 144 - bold emphasis mine.)

This is followed with:

The kingdom which Jesus came to found was not of this world, and was not, in its primary idea, an external organization. But it was inevitable that it should soon be identified with the visible Church, and the regeneration which was its door with the baptism by which entrance into the Church was accomplished. Already in Justin and Irenaeus the word " regeneration" means " baptism ;" and the language of John iii. 5, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," was from a very early period uniformly understood to suspend salvation upon water-baptism. How early this doctrine of the necessity of baptism for salvation became the settled doctrine of the Church it is difficult to trace in the paucity of very early witnesses. Tertullian already defends it from objection. The reply of Cyprian and his fellow-bishops to Fidus on the duty of early baptism, and especially his whole argument to Jubianus against the validity of heretical baptism, plainly presuppose it. By this date clearly it was the accepted Church-doctrine ; and although its stringency was mitigated in the case of adults by the admission not only of the baptism of blood, but also of that of intention, the latter mitigation was not allowed in the case of infants. The watchword of the Church—first spoken in these exact words, perhaps, by Cyprian in his strenuous opposition to the validity of heretical baptismExtra ecclesiam salus non est, hardened in this sense into an undisputed maxim. The whole Patristic Church thus came to agree that, martyrs excepted, no infant dying unbaptized could enter the kingdom of heaven. (pp. 147, 148 - bold emphasis mine)

Next up on Warfield's Patristic survey is Augustine, of whom he writes:

Augustine expressed the church-doctrine moderately, teaching, of course, that infants dying unbaptized would be found on Christ's left hand and be condemned to eternal punishment, but also not forgetting to add that their punishment would be the mildest of all, and indeed that they were to be beaten with so few stripes that he could not say that it would have been better for them not to be born. His zeal in the matter turned on his deepest convictions, and the essence of his argument may be exhibited by putting together two or three sentences from one of his polemic writings against the Pelagians. "We must by no means doubt," he says, "that all men are under sin, which came into the world by one man and has passed through unto all men, and from which nothing frees us but the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ." "For inasmuch as infants are only able to become His sheep by baptism, it must needs come to pass that they perish if they are not baptized, because they will not have that eternal life which He gives to His sheep." "Let then there be no eternal salvation promised to infants out of our own opinion, without Christ's baptism ; for none is promised in that Holy Scripture which is to be preferred to all human authority and opinion.'' (pp. 148, 149 - bold emphasis mine)

And from the final paragraph of his Patristic survey we read:

There were some outside Pelagian circles, like Gregory of Nazianzus, who sought for those who die in infancy unbaptized an intermediate place, neither salvation nor retribution. But probably, with the exception of Gregory of Nyssa, only such anonymous objectors as those whom Tertullian confutes, or such obscure and erratic individuals as Vincentius Victor whom Augustine convicts, in the whole patristic age, doubted that the kingdom of heaven was closed to all infants departing this life without the sacrament of baptism. (p. 151)

Warfield then explores the Catholic doctrine of infant salvation during the Middles Ages and Renaissance periods, up to the Reformation (pp. 151-165).  This is followed by sections on "The Lutheran Teaching" (pp. 165-174) and "The Anglican Position" (pp. 174-195). Next up is, "The Reformed Doctrine" (pp. 195-220); the rest of this post will concern this section.

Warfield begins his section on, "The Reformed Doctrine", with the following, unsubstantiated, assertions:

It was among the Reformed alone that the newly recovered scriptural apprehension of the Church to which the promises were given, as essentially not an external organization but the true Body of Christ, membership in which is mediated not by the external act of baptism but by the internal regeneration of the Holy Spirit, bore its full fruit in rectifying the doctrine of the application of redemption. This great truth was taught alike, to be sure, by both branches of Protestantism, Lutheran as well as Reformed. But it was limited in its application in the one line of teaching by a very high doctrine of the means of grace ; while in the other, wherever the purity of the Reformed doctrine was not corrupted by a large infusion of Romish inheritance, it became itself constitutive of the doctrine of the means of grace. (p. 195)

Interestingly enough, immediately following the above assessments, Warfield admits that some Reformed theologians held to the necessity of baptism for salvation. He summarizes the reflections of Hermann Witsius concerning the French Reformed theologian Peter Jurieu with the following:

This famous writer [Peter Jurieu], to whom Witsius somewhat rashly promised the grateful veneration of posterity, taught that even elect infants, children of covenanted parents, are children of wrath until they are baptized, and up to that time have not received their complete reconciliation, nor have been washed from the stains with which they are born, nor are the objects of God's love of complacency ; that baptism is as necessary to salvation as eating is to living or taking the remedy is to recovery from disease ; that therefore infants properly baptized and dying in infancy are certainly saved, and their baptism is an indubitable proof of their election, while of the salvation of those who die before baptism we can have no certainty, but only a judgment of charity; that God no doubt does save some infants without baptism, but this is done in an extraordinary, and, so to speak, miraculous way, and so that the death of the infant may be supposed to supply the defect of baptism, as martyrdom does for adults in the Romish teaching. (pp. 195, 196)

Warfield clearly believes that the above view is a minority position within the Reformed paradigm, for he then writes:

Such opinions, however, were not characteristic of the Reformed churches, the distinguishing doctrine of which, rather, by suspending salvation on membership in the invisible instead of in the visible Church, transformed baptism from a necessity into a duty, and left men dependent for salvation on nothing but the infinite love and free grace of God. (p. 196)

Warfield follows the above with a summary of his take on what constitutes the basic Reformed position on reprobation and infant salvation:

...the absolutely free and loving election of God alone is determinative of the saved. How many are saved, and who they are, can therefore be known absolutely to God alone; to us, only so far forth as may be inferred from the presence of the marks and signs of election revealed to us in the Word. Faith and its fruits are the chief signs in the case of adults ; and accordingly he that believes may know that he is of the elect and be certain of his salvation. In the case of infants dying in infancy, birth within the bounds of the covenant is a sure sign, since the promise is "unto us and our children." But present unbelief is not a sure sign of reprobation in the case of adults ; for who knows but that unbelief may yet give place to faith? Nor in the case of infants, dying such, is birth outside the covenant a trustworthy sign of reprobation ; for the election of God is free. Accordingly there are manyadults and infantsof whose salvation we may be sure: but Of reprobation we can never be sure; a judgment to that effect is necessarily unsafe even as to such adults as are apparently living in sin, while as to infants who "die and give no sign," it is presumptuous and rash in the extreme. (p. 196)

Warfield states that the above, "is practically an outline of the teaching of Zwingli" (p. 196), and that Zwingli takes this "outline" and "worked it out in its logical completeness", teaching the following:

1. All believers are elect and hence are saved; though we cannot know infallibly who are true believers, except each man in his own case. 2. All children of believers dying in infancy are elect, and hence are saved ; their inclusion in the covenant of salvation rests on God's immutable promise, and their death in infancy must be taken as a sign of election.3. It is probable, from the superabundance of the gift of grace over the offence, that all infants dying such are elect and saved; there is, indeed, no sure promise of their salvation, which must, therefore, be left with God, but it is certainly rash and even impious to affirm their damnation. 4. All who are saved, whether adult or infant, are saved only by the free grace of God's election and through the redemption of Christ. (pp. 196-198)

Though Zwingli's developed assessment most likely, "stood alone among the Reformers in his extension of salvation to all infants dying in infancy", it became one of "five distinguishable classes" (p. 202) within the early Reformed paradigm. The following are those "five distinguishable classes":

1. There were a few, from the very beginning, who held with Zwingli that death in infancy is one of the signs of election, and hence that all who die in infancy are the children of God and enter at once into glory. After Zwingli it is probable that Bishop Hooper was the first to embrace this view. (p. 203)

2. At the opposite extreme a very few Reformed theologians taught that the only sure sign of election is faith with its fruits, and, therefore, that we can have no real ground of conviction concerning the fate of any infant. (p. 205)

3. Many held that faith and the promise are sure signs of election, and accordingly that all believers and their children are certainly saved ; but that the lack of faith and the promise is an equally sure sign of reprobation, so that all the children of unbelievers dying such are equally certainly lost. (p. 209)

4. More held that faith and the promise are certain signs of election, so that the salvation of believers' children is certain, while the lack of the promise only leaves us in ignorance of God's purpose ; nevertheless that there is good ground for asserting that both election
and reprobation have place in this unknown sphere. Accordingly they held that all the infants of believers, dying such, are saved, but that some of the infants of unbelievers, dying such, are lost. (p. 210)

5. Most Calvinists of the past, however, have held that faith and the promise are marks by which we may know assuredly that all those who believe and their children, dying such, are elect and saved ; while the absence of sure marks of either election or reprobation in infants, dying such outside the covenant, leaves us without ground for inference concerning them, and they must therefore be left to the judgment of God, which, however hidden from us, is assuredly just and holy and good. (p. 211)

A few pages later, Warfield provides the following assessment:

Although, thus, the cautious agnostic position as to the fate of uncovenanted infants dying in infancy may fairly claim to be historically the Calvinistic view, it is perfectly obvious that it is not per se more Calvinistic than the others. The adherents of all the types enumerated above are clearly within the limits of the Reformed system, and hold with the same firmness to the fundamental Reformed position that salvation is absolutely suspended on no earthly condition, but ultimately rests on God's electing grace alone, while our knowledge of who are saved depends on our view of what are the signs of election and of the clearness with which they may be interpreted. (p. 217)

A bit later we read:

...to-day few English-speaking Calvinists can be found who do not hold with Toplady, and Thomas Scott, and John Newton, and J. H. A. Bomberger, and Nathan L. Rice, and Robert J. Breckinridge, and Robert S. Candlish, and Thomas Hamilton, and Charles Hodge, and William G. T. Shedd, and the whole body of those of recent years whom the Calvinistic churches delight to honor, that all who die in infancy are the children of God and enter at once into His glorynot because original sin alone is not deserving of eternal punishment (for all are born children of wrath), nor because those that die in infancy are less guilty than others (for relative innocence would merit only relatively light punishment, not freedom from all punishment), nor because they die in infancy (for that they die in infancy is not the cause but the effect of God's mercy toward them), but simply because God in His infinite love has chosen them in Christ, before the foundation of the world, by a loving foreordination of them unto adoption as sons in Jesus Christ. (pp. 219, 220 - bold emphasis mine)

Warfield concludes his treatment with the following:

If all infants dying in infancy are saved, it is certain that they are not saved by or through the ordinances of the visible Church; for they have not received them. It is equally certain that they are not saved through their own improvement of a grace common to all men; for, just because they die in infancy, they are incapable of personal activity. It is equally certain that they are not saved through the granting to them of a bare opportunity of salvation in the next world ; for a bare opportunity indubitably falls short of salvation. If all that die in infancy are saved, it can only be through the almighty operation of the Holy Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases, through whose ineffable grace the Father gathers these little ones to the home He has prepared for them. If, then, the salvation of all that die in infancy be held to be a certain or probable fact, this fact will powerfully react on the whole complex of our theological conceptions, and no system of theological thought can live in which it cannot find a natural and logical place. It can find such a place in the Reformed theology. It can find such a place in no other system of theological thought. (pp. 238, 239)

I shall reserve my own reflections on the Calvinistic doctrine of the salvation of infants for a future post that will compare and summarize all the various systems in this ongoing series; up next, the Lutheran tradition (the Lord willing).

Grace and peace,