Monday, May 05, 2008

God's Salvation: Law and Grace

A discussion starter, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

I. JUSTIFICATION

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism:34

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.35

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

1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39

1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.

1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or "justice") here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.

1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:40

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.41

1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight.42

1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God's love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that "the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth," because "heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away."43 He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.

1995 The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the "inner man,"44 justification entails the sanctification of his whole being:

Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.45

II. GRACE

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.46

1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.47

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

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.49

2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God's call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.

2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:"50

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.51

2002 God's free initiative demands man's free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of "eternal life" respond, beyond all hope, to this desire:

If at the end of your very good works . . ., you rested on the seventh day, it was to foretell by the voice of your book that at the end of our works, which are indeed "very good" since you have given them to us, we shall also rest in you on the sabbath of eternal life.52

2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit."53 Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.54

2004 Among the special graces ought to be mentioned the graces of state that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the ministries within the Church:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.55

2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.56 However, according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them by their fruits"57 - reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: "Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.'"58

III. MERIT

You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts.59

2006 The term "merit" refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it.

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God's gifts."62

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. 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.

2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63

IV. CHRISTIAN HOLINESS

2012 "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him . . . For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified."64

2013 "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity."65 All are called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."66

In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.67

2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.

2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.68 Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:

He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.69

2016 The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus.70 Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the "blessed hope" of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the "holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."71

IN BRIEF

2017 The grace of the Holy Spirit confers upon us the righteousness of God. Uniting us by faith and Baptism to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, the Spirit makes us sharers in his life.

2018 Like conversion, justification has two aspects. Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, and so accepts forgiveness and righteousness from on high.

2019 Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man.

2020 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God's mercy.

2021 Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.

2022 The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.

2023 Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.

2024 Sanctifying grace makes us "pleasing to God." Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from habitual grace which is permanent in us.

2025 We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God.

2026 The grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true merit on us, by virtue of our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God's gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of merit in us before God.

2027 No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. 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.

2028 "All Christians . . . are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity" (LG 40 § 2). "Christian perfection has but one limit, that of having none" (St. Gregory of Nyssa, De vita Mos.:PG 44, 300D).

2029 "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24).

34 Rom 3:22; cf. 6:3-4.
35 Rom 6:8-11.
36 Cf. 1 Cor 12; Jn 15:1-4.
37 St. Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1,24:PG 26,585 and 588.
38 Mt 4:17.
39 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.
40 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.
41 Rom 3:21-26.
42 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1525.
43 St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 72,3:PL 35,1823.
44 Cf. Rom 7:22; Eph 3:16.
45 Rom 6:19,22.
46 Cf. Jn 1:12-18; 17:3; Rom 8:14-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4.
47 Cf. 1 Cor 2:7-9.
48 Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39.
49 2 Cor 5:17-18.
50 St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 17:PL 44,901.
51 St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 31:PL 44,264.
52 St. Augustine, Conf. 13,36 51:PL 32,868; cf. Gen 1:31.
53 Cf. LG 12.
54 Cf. 1 Cor 12.
55 Rom 12:6-8.
56 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.
57 Mt 7:20.
58 Acts of the trial of St. Joan of Arc.
59 Roman Missal, Prefatio I de sanctis; Qui in Sanctorum concilio celebraris, et eorum coronando merita tua dona coronas, citing the "Doctor of grace," St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 102,7:PL 37,1321-1322.
60 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.
61 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.
62 St. Augustine, Sermo 298,4-5:PL 38,1367.
63 St. Thérèse of Lisieux, "Act of Offering" in Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke (Washington DC: ICS, 1981), 277.
64 Rom 8:28-30.
65 LG 40 § 2.
66 Mt 5:48.
67 LG 40 § 2.
68 Cf. 2 Tim 4.
69 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Hom. in Cant. 8:PG 44,941C.
70 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1576.
71 Rev 21:2.

82 comments:

tdunbar said...

sounds good to me

Ideally one would compare it with a comparable official Anglican document

Anonymous said...

Amen! What a beautiful, well rounded definition. I dont think I ever read something sooo clear on this issue.

Timotheus

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Most of this is no different from what Anglicans have always taught. Nonetheless, it is not perfect.

Problem 1: It confuses justification and sanctification. Justification is not the same thing as the process of sanctification. Yes, they are inseparable because grace that brings justification begins the process of change within. But, they are distinct.

Problem 2: (By far the most serious problem) This part is simply wrong: "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."

Rome needs to be willing to shed precedents when they conflict with the Tradition. This is a Medieval bit of heresy that needs to be jettisoned, and which clearly contradicts everything else on the same page. Only the sinless One could merit salvation for the Many (Romans 5). Inasmuch as they have said so themselves, in so many words, why are they then in bondage to this "treasury" garbage? They were doing so well, until they just had to force this self-contradicton, ever so awkwardly, into what had been a very fine text.

3. Weak definition of "justification." It is mostly good, but misses an essential part: "[Jesus Christ] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." Romans 4:25

Yes, justification is directly related to the forgiveness merited for us by Christ's atonement. But, justification means that we are not merely forgiven, but restored to full favor as if we had been righteous ourselves (which we had not). To grasp the meaning of justification, we must understand not only Christ' atoning death, but also his resurrection and our ultimate hope. It is his resurrection that restores us to a state unaffected by sin. this is the meaning of St. Paul's words.

Anonymous said...

This statement is so masterfully crafted that one is bound to begin by praising it. Most of the language I would totally concur with. But, for starters, just two comments.

In #2007 and #2010, the term "merit" is heavily nuanced; in fact it seems to be nuanced right out of business. Why not just admit that this term has no value or usefulness in Christian theology but has long been the source of much mischief and unnecessary division. "Merit" is useless baggage and should be eliminated altogether.

But as a far more serious issue, at the very outset, in #1987, we are given an imprecise (I will even say erroneous) definition of the key word Justification. Justification, as St Paul used the word, is NOT cleansing. Justification is a change in legal status. It means to declare righteous, not to make righteous. The entire statement flows out of this fundamental confusion of justification and sanctification.

I prefer the keen insights of a classic Reformational statement:
"Wherein so justificaion and sanctification differ? Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ in that God, in justification, imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification, his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued; the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection."

If this seems too scholastic and overly precise, the hymn-writers, who had Christ in their hearts, captured it well. Augustus Toplady wrote: "Be of sin the double cure; cleanse me from its guilt and power." Justification removes the guilt of sin, sanctification destroys the power of sin.

Cecil Frances Alexander wrote,
"He died that we might be forgiven; He died to make us good." In simple language she captured the critical distinction which brings peace to the sinner's heart: we are already forgiven even when we are not yet very good.

The CCC contains many praiseworthy statements and is greatly strengthened by its use of NT data.
But it never quite attains the trumpet blast of St Paul, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
Laurence K. Wells

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

The problem with what you have said is twofold.

First, your statements about the meanings of justification and sanctification are too dogmatic to properly reflect the variety of NT usage, even within the Pauline Corpus. "Justification and Sanctification" seem to be coupled together often on the Hebraic model of doubling for emphasis rather than for the sake of strictly distinguishing between them. Compare the phrase "image and likeness" in Genesis or the repetitions with slight variations throughout Proverbs.

Second, in what you say needs to be affirmed that isn't in the CCC, there is misleading theology. To wit, "they never fall into condemnation". Justification does not guarantee this in the Bible. Only Calvinism teaches that justification is unaffected by whether or not we are in mortal sin, or that final salvation is necessitated by justification. Even Romans 8 says there is no condemnation for those "in Christ". Verses 9 and 13 make the conditionality of continued justification and life clear.

At the risk of boring our regular readers, I feel I must quote what I have already written on this very topic only recently, which addreses the objections of both Fr Hat and Fr Wells:

The RCC defines justification to include both forgiveness of sins and initial sanctification. Many protestants have strictly distinguished the words, but acknowledged the forgiveness and renewal aspects are inseparable anyway. It should not be forgotten that the Council of Trent said that the forgiveness aspect of justification is entirely gratuitous and earned by Christ's merits, not by his disciples' merits or infused virtues. So this is a mere logomachy. Indeed, I think it is one founded in St Paul, who seems to use the j-word in the imputational Lutheran sense in Romans 4.2-8 but the impartational Tridentine sense in Romans 5.19 and Ephesians 4.24, for example. Mind you, even Trent only condemned the view that justification in that broader use of the word was solely imputational, so imputational aspects are not exclude even there.
...
1. Rom. 4.17 shows God's declarative word is also intrinsically a creative word. Ergo, cleansing decreed is cleansing done.

2. The underlying Gk verb translated "made" includes the meaning "to be in a certain state" and "to be established", and is clearly used in a more than imputational sense in James 4.4, for example.

3. The verb "put on" in Eph. 4.24 takes on an object which renders its meaning impartational: "the new man, created by God". Comparison with other Pauline usages establishes that this "new man" is no external status existing only in a legal fiction but the renewed inner nature given by grace.

4. Neither the RCC nor the EOC has now or ever understood "justification" to be solely and strictly imputational. This interpretation, especially if it is applied as a test of orthodoxy to exclude others as heretical in soteriology, has no authority from the patristic consensus and is thus ruled out for Anglican Catholics (if adhered to as mandatory or de fide).

5. Anglican divines have in fact never consensually agreed to the Lutheran interpretation and soteriology. Even the early Homily on Salvation contains elements inconsistent with pure imputationlism, never mind the teaching of such men as Bp Bull et al.

6. The Lutherans themselves seem to agree now that this is not a Church-dividing issue between them and the RCC.

Finally, while I agree the stereotyped separation of the temporal penalty from the eternal guilt due to sin in mediaeval RCism is problematic, and does tend to undermine the joy of justification unnecessarily by leaving a dread of the God who still demands his "pound" of pain, this distinction contains a truth. This truth needs integration with the Eastern and Anglican perspective, which emphasises the spiritual growth and purification needed after initial justification to "fulfill" it and to deal with the internal consequences of sin. This perspective was never entirely absent from the mediaeval RCC, but was obscured. It is now being re-captured.
...
You said, "the CCC knows of Justification only in the progressive and subjective sense (properly called Sanctification, not in its forensic and objective sense--the sine qua non of the Gospel." Well, it certainly assumes justification includes both forgiveness and sanctification, but it does distinguish these two aspects within it (1989 and 1990 make this clear) and, just as importantly, refuses to make the forgiveness depend meritoriously on the regeneration/sanctification, which really addresses your concern. If you doubt this last statement, then re-read the following from the CCC: "no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness" from 2010 and "All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself."

As for objective vs subjective senses of the word, I must disagree with your application of these terms, though I know they are popularly used this way. It seems to me that imputational justification is subjective in God, in that it is an attitude he takes toward us based on nothing objectively within us. The only "objective" aspect of this connotation, it seems, is it meritorious ground in the Cross (and the will of God to forgive insofar as this can be said to subsist in the Divine Nature). The righteousness of the "not guilty" verdict, isolated in the abstract from other aspects of salvation, has no objective or substantial existence as an entity in itself. It is "relation".

However, the broader sense of justification includes, in addition to this changed relationship with God, and as a result of the said change (i.e., "Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness": CCC, 1990), an objective reality subsisting in the person justified. It is commonly claimed that under the RC definition of justification, this grace depends upon the "subjective" aspect of salvation, that is, the change in our moral behaviour, our acts of will. This is untrue. The Formal Cause (in modern language, the effect on our inner nature as it is "informed" by Grace) of justification, the very thing that is said to make us justified in this sense, is not our experienced growth in virtuous living but the divine creation of the "New Man" which enables such growth. This creative act in itself is monergistic and purely Divine, though its effect is to allow synergy between us and God. Our subjective experience of "increased righteousness" in the ethical sense is not the ontological basis of justification in the Tridentine meaning, then, properly speaking, but one consequence of it.
...
I do see the distinction you make in both Trent and the CCC, its just that they say "forgiveness" where you say "justification". But they state that it is unmerited by us, but merited by Christ. It is not dependent on how sanctified we are, at least with regard to the eternal guilt. That there is no justification without regeneration of sanctifying grace is also implied and is not problematic for us, being taught in the Prayer Book Baptismal rite, where we pray for "remission of sin by spiritual regeneration".

As for your objection to the "merit" word, are you sure that you are not over-reacting? Merit only relates to what you and they would call sanctification, but they would include as a second dimension of justification as whole salvation. Note three things about this merit. It is not "strict" to quote the CCC, i.e., based on a true equality between the good work and the reward. Instead, it is based on God's gratuitous promise to reward such works. And it is really equivalent to the biblical "reward", which is to be "plenteously" given to our good works, according to the Prayer Book Collect for the Sunday Next Before Advent.


As for the sense that Christians should normally have, other things being equal, that they are free from condemnation and guilt, even Trent says that faith for Catholics involves: "believing to be true what has been divinely ... promised, especially that the sinner is justified by God ... [and] trusting that God will be propitious to them for Christ's sake".

In summary:-
You say justification
They say forgiveness
Let's call the whole argument off

:-)

Anonymous said...

Off topic: What does an * mean next to a Sunday selection in the daily office lectionary?

Timotheus

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

One more thing on "merit". If we accept this as equivalent to the biblical "reward", the question remains, is eternal life in some sense a reward or result of our actions (though not caused by them)? Matthew 25.31f says yes. So does Galatians 6.8f. Not that the reward is properly or strictly equal to the deed (as the CCC admits): far from it. But more grace and glory are given when we cooperate with the grace already given freely in initial justification. Note: this justification refers not only to baptism but every return to a state of grace from deadly sin.

Merit i really just about what happens when we open up more to God. We get more of Him. But the openness of relationship itself is a pure gift grounded in the Cross.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby: simply saying the same thing over and over and over does not constitute an argument. It is no more convincing this time than it was the last. I will note, however, your parting shot: "you say justification, they say forgiveness." It is not a matter of what "I" say or "they" say; it is a matter of dealing honestly with the Biblical data. I suspect you would object to Luther's alleged removal of the Epistle of Jaems from the NT. I object equally to your insouciant dismissal of the NT term justification.
Laurence K. Wells

btw, Fr Kirby, are you by any chance a universalist? I ask because a universalist would not see this a a significant issue, just a "mere logomachy." A universalist would probably agree with your position.

Anonymous said...

Laurence,
With your last response to Fr. Kirby I'm curious as to what you believe keeps people like Fr. Kirby ( and Myself) from seeing the Truth on Justification as you see it? IOW, what protects you from making such a blunder when you are, as you would put it, "dealing honestly with the Biblical data."? Are you suggesting some type of dishonesty on our part? Or, perhaps some kind of blind allegiance to some group or Church? Or, maybe you have some kind of special Charism from God that protects you from error-no, it can't be that. Because such a Charism would rightly be called infallibility and you don't believe that such a thing exists at all. Oh well, I wonder what prompts such peremptory remarks from you?

As a side note, and I say this with all due respect and indeed in humor; when I open my Bible and ask it to tell me what it means regarding Justification it literally does not say a word by itself. I find I have to read it then interpret what "I" think it means. Which, incidently,when 'dealing honestly with the human data' is the absolute best reason I know to reject every version of Sola Scriptura I have ever heard.

In Christ's Love,
Pat

Albion Land said...

I must confess that when Father Kirby and Father Wells took issue with each other over this question a few weeks ago, I was otherwise focused and did not read their exchange closely enough to understand clearly what their differences were.

In recent days, I have been doing some private reading on the subject of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and have come across a paradigm I had always been intuitively aware of but never seen laid out: the idea of the past, present and future tenses of salvation.

Perhaps our two learned and beloved scholars would humour me, and help me understand, by presenting their arguments in that paradigm -- what happened/was done, what is happening/being done and what will happen/be done.

Imagine, if you will, bullet points for a course outline.

Death Bredon said...

Methodological problem: citations to 'authorities' not necessarily accept by the Undivided Church.

Footnotes: 39-40, 42, 50-52, 56, 59-62, 70.

Sean said...

Albion's words are mine -- the bulleted outline especially since these computer screens sure are demanding on the eyes.

Sean

Anonymous said...

Albion: fair enough.

The "past, present, future" paradigm is very helpful here. N.T. Wright (whom I do not entirely follow on Justification) has used it extensively.

Here is how I would lay it out:

PAST: At the moment the Christian first looked to Christ in faith, even with faith as small as the mustard seed, God judicially pronounced him righteous. Two examples from the Gospels would be the thief on the cross and the pharisee in the temple. In the latter example the word "justified" is specifically used (Lk 18:14). It is in the passive voice, signifying Divine action, and the perfect tense, indicating final and enduring action. No internal change wehatever, nothing imparted or infused, simply declared righteous by Divine fiat. I could expound further on the good thief, who had no merits whatever of his own, but you get the idea.

FUTURE: At the Last Judgment, God will pardon, acquit, and vindicate those who are His. That is the ultimate justification. The wonderful and marvellous thing is that this eschatological justification has ALREADY been pronounced over those who believe in Jesus! The future has invaded the present. When Paul writes (Romans 8:1) "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus," he is saying that the final judgment has already been pronounced upon those united to Christ by faith.

PRESENT: God is currently at work
in changing us internally through the process known as sanctification. The inward condition must catch up to the outward status.

So in Justification and Sanctification, we have the "already" and the "not yet" of God's saving work.

The CCC statement is actually quite splendid. I would accept it in a heartbeat if only (1) the title were changed from Justification to Sanctification, and the language about "merit" were expunged.

The NT contains a huge treasury of metaphors describing God's work for us and in us. Justification is only one of these. We have also the vocabulary of redemption, salvation, regeneration (new birth), adoption, sanctification, newness of life, victory over the powers of evil, etc. Each one of these is like a facet on a jewel--a partial view but a reflection of the whole. It is plainly wrong to make any one of these the whole picture (a common mistake, as when extreme Lutherans use justification in this manner or the EO's use theosis similarly). The error of Romann Catholicism is that it telescopes justification and sanctification together. The error of many others is simply to ignore Justification in its judicial reality. If CCC is right, then the parable of the pharisee and the publican would have a very different ending. Instead of the poor sinner being freely pardoned and accepted as righteous in God's sight, he would only have "the first work of grace," leaving him to earn merit by cooperating with grace offered but not really given.
Laurence K. Wells

Albion Land said...

Thank you so much, Fr Laurence.

Now I understand your position, and look forward to see where Fr Kirby differs.

In the meantime, there is still a disconnect for me, as you have not explained to my understanding why your position is anything different than the extreme Protestant idea of "once saved, always saved."

I understand what you say about sanctification, but as presented here, for me it hangs there as a sort of embarrassing appendage.

I keep being drawn back to the words of the BCP's General Thanksgiving: "... for the means of grace and the hope of glory."

Yes, there is so much language in the NT to explain this, and to me it has always been that, yes, we are justified on our assent and baptism. But we we can "blow it" in one of two ways -- by deliberately choosing to rejct God, or by failing to pursue, to the best of our abilities, and always with the grace of God, that perfection to which we are called.

Anonymous said...

Sanctification is not an "embarrassing appendage" but rather the golden cords which links past and future aspects of salvation. It is the line which begins at regeneration and ends in our final theosis. I am only embarrassed by my sins, which create my need for it.

As far as the "once saved always saved," is concerned: I have no objection to the "once ... always..." part of that formula.
It is false because it contains an unBiblical view of salvation as accomplished once-for-all by a
"decision for Christ." How would you feel about "once baptized, always baptised" as a substitute?
After all, there is a reason why baptism is a unique and unrepeatable sacrament.
Laurence K. Wells

Albion Land said...

Fr Laurence,

Can we go back to this observation of mine about the future tense, which I either need validated or corrected:

"But we we can 'blow it' in one of two ways -- by deliberately choosing to reject God, or by failing to pursue, to the best of our abilities, and always with the grace of God, that perfection to which we are called."

I am assuming, for the sake of discussion, that none of us are at great risk of falling into the former trap, but what about the latter?

If it is not required of us that we run the race and fight the good fight, then I would think we come back to once saved, always saved. Whether we run the fastest, or fight the hardest, is not the issue, but rather that we do the best we can honestly can. Otherwise, what does James mean when he says faith without works is dead?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The bottom line is how these terms are used in the New Testament. Justification is not a vocation or process, but the Passover that included the cross and that was completed when Christ rose from the dead (as I quoted from Rom. 4:25). Sanctification, on the other hand, is both a vocation and a process. If justification and sanctification are the same, we cannot speak of forgiveness of sins in the past tense. This is very slippery.

Furthermore, I see that no objection has been raised to my complete rejection of this part: "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." In case I was not clear, let me say this is a damnable heresy and a false gospel.

(Someone asked about asterisks in the Sunday reading schedule. It means that if you are to choose one psalm and one lesson, you choose the ones that are on that line where you see the asterisk *.)

Nathan said...

Remaining off topic:
The third paragraph on Page viii, of the '28 BCP reads, "The starred Lessons provided for Sundays are particularly appropriate for use when Morning Prayer with one Lesson precedes the Holy Communion.

Anonymous said...

Albion, sorry to be slow in getting back to you on this one:
You wrote:
"But we we can 'blow it' in one of two ways -- by deliberately choosing to reject God, or by failing to pursue, to the best of our abilities, and always with the grace of God, that perfection to which we are called."

I agree with you that the first of these alternatives is unusual. Hebrews, however, does deal with the possibility of apostasy. That raises a question as to the genuineness of the "faith" which was lost or abandoned.

As for the second alternative, "failing to pursue to the best of our ability that perfection to which we are called," if that is "blowing it," then we are all doomed.
Laurence K. Wells

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

Your position is, as Albion suspected, effectively equivalent to the Calvinist position, "once saved, always saved". You have proven this by interpreting apostacy as something that only happens to those whose "genuineness" of faith is dubious.

The reason I repeated my earlier arguments is that you never replied to most of them back then, explicitly saying, for example, you would only deal at that time with the last of the six numbered points.

You (and Fr Hart) continue to say that justification only means one thing in the NT, the identical thing every time. I have shown this is false, even within Paul's writings. It should be noted that even protestant exegetes have acknowledged that the forensic sense of this word-group (based on dikaio) is not the only one in the NT. However, if you wish to use the "forensic-only" connotation exclusively in your own writings, that is not a major problem. But then you will be talking at cross-purposes when you engage the Tridentine teaching. Given that everything you say about justification the RCC says about forgiveness, except for the unbiblical and unpatristic absolute "promise" of final salvation you attach to justification, there remains nothing to argue about except for this strange adhesion to a doctrine explicitly inconsistent with Scripture, not believed by the Fathers, and even inconsistent with the 39 Articles.

As for universalism, while I am not a universalist in the Origenist sense, I am open to "larger hope" and "mitigated Hell" positions such as those enunciated as permissible by Canon Farrar and Bp K. Ware, and found in some Fathers and later teachers. However I do not hold these as doctrines, properly speaking.

Albion,

Since I agree that there is an imputational aspect to justification and that the word is sometimes used in this specific sense in the NT, I have little problem with Fr Wells summary of past, present and future, as long as the apparently "guaranteed" connection between past and future in his presentation is strongly qualified, and it is accepted that where the j-word is being used in a broader sense, including ethical and ontological connotations, the language of "growth in justification" is permitted.

Fr Hart,

I do object to your complete rejection of the merit statement, with the emphasis on "complete". That is why I gave an orthodox interpretation of it above. Is it misleading to use the word merit in this context? Yes. When all the qualifications are taken into account is it heretical? No.

In reality, I think it is saying no more than the more we sow to the Spirit, the more we reap from the Spirit, as St Paul taught. And that God rewards obedience in both temporal and eternal ways, which the whole Bible teaches. Is it an evenly balanced quid pro quo? Certainly not, nor does the RCC claim it is when all the statements are taken into account. The difference between what we sow and what we reap is, in a sense, infinite. All agree on this. Again, there is nothing communion-dividing here, IMO.

Albion Land said...

Fathers Kirby and Wells,

I don't know if you two are getting any closer to understanding each other, but I think I am approaching an answer to my question, one which I think is shared by others as theologically inadept as I.

Let me phrase the question differently, as no one has quite picked up on it:

Let us assume that I have been baptised and even confirmed. What do I need to be/do to ensure that I go to Heaven and, alternately, what is it that I might be or do that will land me in Hell?

Anonymous said...

Albion: It's very simple. You need to repent of your sins, believe on Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, and make a diligent use of the means of grace. That's all.
Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby: What is it about the word "merit" which makes you cling to it so strongly? The disadvantages of the word are tacitly acknowledged by the CCC itself. So tell us, what does this word contribute to theological discussion. Certain other nonBiblical terms (such as Trinity, or Sacrament) are highly useful additions to the Christian vocabulary. But merit?

And in view of your defense of "merit," what do you make of Paul's
frequent assertion that in view of grace all "boasting" is excluded?

And if you feel this this issue is a "mere logomachy," why do you devote so much time to it?
Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby writes:
"You (and Fr Hart) continue to say that justification only means one thing in the NT, the identical thing every time."

Actually I have never said that. It is a well known fact that James uses "justify" in a demonstrative sense, rather different from Paul's
forensic sense



"I have shown this is false, even within Paul's writings."

Say what? Can you cite a Pauline text which uses "justify" in a clearly non-forensic sense?

I am disappointed that you have directed our argument in a an ad hominem style by insinuating that I might be (horrible dictu!) a (ladies cover their ears now) CALVINIST! Permit me to explain that you do not refute a psotion merely by labelling it with an ugly name. My view of Justification is held by such stalwart Anglicans as Fitz Allison (from whom I learned it, out of Richard Hooker) and E. J. Bicknell. I could cite other names, such as Leon Morris and J. I. Packer and quite a few others.
Red herrings do not win debates.
Laurence K. Wells

Death Bredon said...

Pax Gentlemen!

1. Fr. Wells:

I believe that, perhaps, you have not expressed yourself as eloquently as possible. But, as you invoke Biknell, who was definitely not a Calvinist and definitely did not teach Calvinist doctrine, I trust in your Anglican orthodoxy.

2. Fr. Kirby:

Indeed, the CCC statement is subject to various readings, some more natural than others. But this is precisely one of two reasons that it is so difficult to stand by. (The other, as I have already posted, is that it relies upon so much non-ecumenical authority.)

But worse, the CCC affirms Rome's adherence, theoretically, to its Merits-Induglences-Works-Purgation doctrinal complex, which is sectarian, medieval innovation. Until this goes, the doubts about Rome's orthodox or Orthodoxy on the doctrine of salvation will abound.

3. Fr. Hart:

The Orthodox, I believe, sometimes/often read "justification" in the NT as synonymous with "salvation." Perhaps, this technically incorrect, but I believe this approach has some good support from the Fathers. Of course, even so, the Anglican-Orthodox difference here has always been a semantic one, whereas (especially in historical application) the Anglican v. Roman difference has been very real, as noted above.

Albion:

As you reside in the Byzantine Christian Commonwealth, I'll give you an Orthodox answer to your cogent question (though C.S Lewis among many, many other Anglican divines would no doubt do so too regardless of your residence): "Theosis" (union with God through Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost) That's the answer.

That said, a caveat. Theosis is centered around the Sacraments or Mysteries and is a life-long path (perhaps longer) involving mind, body and spirit. It is not an a priori, pre-prescribed program of specific behaviors (though, if you are having trouble on your way, the surviving monastic typicons MAY provide a rough template for guidance -- as can a very good spiritual elder. But quite possibly not -- be careful, legalistic and therefore false Orthodoxy abounds these days!)

Anonymous said...

Since Fr Kirby has attempted to score a point by labellling my presentation as "Calvinist" (as though that had any relevance to the question at hand), I would respectfully submit the following quote from an Anglican Divine known as one of Calvin's most vociferous critics:

"But what is it to be "justified?" What is "justification?" This was the Second thing which I proposed to show. And it is evident, from what has been already observed, that it is not the being made actually just and righteous. This is "sanctification;" which is, indeed, in some degree, the immediate fruit of justification, but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature. The one implies what God does for us through his Son; the other, what he works in us by his Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, wherein the term "justified" or "justification" is used in so wide a sense as to include "sanctification" also; yet, in general use, they are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. Paul and the other inspired writers."

"The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins. It is that act of God the Father, hereby, for the sake of the propitiation made by the blood of his Son, he "showeth forth his righteousness (or mercy) by the remission of the sins that are past." This is the easy, natural account of it given by St. Paul, throughout this whole epistle. So he explains it himself, more particularly in this and in the following chapter. Thus, in the next verses but one to the text, "Blessed are they," saith he, "whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." To him that is justified or forgiven, God "will not impute sin" to his condemnation. He will not condemn him on that account, either in this world or in that which is to come. His sins, all his past sins, in thought, word, and deed, are covered, are blotted out, shall not be remembered or mentioned against him, any more than if they had not been. God will not inflict on that sinner what he deserved to suffer, because the Son of his love hath suffered for him. And from the time we are "accepted through the Beloved," "reconciled to God through his blood," he loves, and blesses, and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned."

Source: John Wesley's Sermon on Justification.

Laurence K. Wells

Albion Land said...

Fr Laurence,

You are now speaking a language this poor creature can begin to grasp:

"It's very simple. You need to repent of your sins, believe on Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, and make a diligent use of the means of grace."

Now, all I need for you, or anyone else, to explain, is what is meant by that final phrase: "to make a diligent use of the means of grace."

I have already stated what I understand it to mean: that we must work out our salvation by pursuing, to the best of our abilities, and always with the grace of God, that perfection to which we are called."

In other words, as I have said, that we have to DO something, and that if we don't do it, we are not to be confident of attaining everlasting life ie Heaven.

I do not mean to pick on Fr Laurence; I am directing this at all clergy here, but c'mon folks, someone bite the bullet and say it.

Thanks be to God that we have an increasing number of self-identified sheep out there amongst our readers, people who want to be cared for and fed. So what are we offering them? They want answers they can deal with.

Anonymous said...

Albion,
I had the same reaction as you expressed to what Fr. Laurence said. I almost posted on it before you did. But now, as someone who knows himself to be a sheep in the fold of Christ, I ask along with you for an answer. Indeed I ask for some kind of end or resolution to this debate over the nature of grace and justification as it relates to works etc... Fr. Laurence may believe he has answered it; in fact his responces come across as most dogmatic. He has merely rehashed one side of the 500 year old argument that he believes to be fact.

Albion, I don't know what the clergy here will say. But, I will say that the answer seems obvious. If we do not make a diligent use of the means of grace then we will be judged accordingly. And, YES!, we may spend eternity in hell.

Pat

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Again, the part I completely reject says this: "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."

In its context it is depenedent on something that is dependent onlyon Christ and his cross. But, as a statement that suddenly appears, it interupts the logic and flow of the very section where we find it. It stands out as a self-contradiction. It also contradicts basic facts. "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever." Psalm 47:7,8 "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Romans 5:18

It is true that we may, by the grace of God, meet the conditions that lead to eternal life, exactly in the short summary provided by Fr. Laurence. But, we have not merited it; we have received a free gift. Neither can we receive this gift to such an extent that it creates a credit owed by God and applied to another's soul. These ideas deny the absolute necessity and absolute sufficiency of Christ's "once for all" atoning death.

It denies what we say as we celebrate at the altar: "ALL glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious the death and sacrifice, until his coming again."

As for what Fr. Laurence said about diligent use of the means of grace, I think I have explained it in my own sermons, especially Trinity XVI 2007. It should be clear that we must live our Christian life within the Church, and, according to iour ability, receive the sacraments "generally necessary for salvation," communing regularly, and doing so after receiving Absolution.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

It is not ad hominem to say your "position is ... effectively equivalent to" the Calvinist doctrine because you refuse to affrim the possibility that one genuinely justified could lose justification. It is just a statement of fact about your position, not an insult to your character. The belief that finally losing justification once gained is impossible is precisely Calvinist. It is inconsistent with Scripture's warnings, the soteriology of the Fathers and Article 16: note the doubled use of "may" in the latter. The RCC doesn't believe it, neither does the EOC. It does not satisfy the Vincentian Canon. You said 'The wonderful and marvellous thing is that this eschatological justification has ALREADY been pronounced over those who believe in Jesus! The future has invaded the present. When Paul writes (Romans 8:1) "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus," he is saying that the final judgment has already been pronounced upon those united to Christ by faith.' You then implied any who lost their justification never really had it. It is difficult to interpret your words any other way. Especially when you appeal to Packer, who, as I understand it, would describe himself as a mainstream Evangelical Reformed theologian, i.e., a Calvinist. Calvinism is not the doctrine of the undivided Church, Anglican formularies or the ACC. However, if you do accept that present justification is not an absolute guarantee of final salvation, please just say this. It would clarify things for me at least.

As for the meaning of the family of words we translate as justify, justification, righteous, righteousness, etc., I did show that some verses are more naturally interpreted as ontological in meaning, e.g., Ephesians 4.24, and answered your attempt to interpret it merely forensically. You never responded to this answer. And I noted that the "righteous" words were even used variously in Romans.

If you say I did not prove these to your satisfaction, you are missing the point. The onus is not on me to prove that justification must have certain meaning/s. I am not the one claiming that justify always means exactly the same thing in St Paul's writings and must not be used with other meanings, especially by the RCC. You are. I am pleading for some allowance for using the word with different but related emphases, since there is no consensual patristic or ecclesial interpretation that certifies the imputational sense as the only one permitted -- quite the contrary. Appealing to Hooker, Wesley, Morris or Packer does not come near to establishing the kind of authority for your interpretation that would make it binding. (Especially when Wesley, in the quotation you gave, accepts that justification sometimes includes sanctification in the NT!!!) But if it's not binding, you cannot criticise the RCC for using another related but broader interpretation.

And that is why I am devoting time to this issue. We have no right to claim something is communion-dividing when our own standards (including the Vincentian Canon) do not permit us to make dogmatic statements against that "something". As for the word "merit", I do not "cling" to it. Please read what I said. I affirmed it is misleading and only said it is not heretical when interpreted by its somewhat strained RC definition. I would be happier to see them dump the word and replace it with "reward" for the noun and "gain as a reward by virtue of gratuitous promise" for the verb. The latter might be unwieldy, but it is more informative and not misleading. Again, it is all about us not putting up barriers that are unecessary and claiming something is absolutely erroneous when it may just be deficiently expressed.

Albion,

The way for a baptised person to avoid Hell and go to Heaven is to remain in a state of grace, where faith active in love is maintained. That also means avoiding mortal sins of commission or omission and having true repentance (also based on living, loving faith) if one does fall into such sin, preferably making use of the Sacrament of Penance as well when appropriate. Love God and Neighbour actively (through prayer, worshipful hearing of the word and participation in the sacraments, and charitable deeds) as you have opportunity, not expecting perfection in this regard, don't sin and repent if you do. I don't really see this as inconsistent with what Fr Wells said on that issue. Or what the RCC teaches.

Albion Land said...

Fr Kirby,

Your most recent comments to me have confirmed in simple straightforward language what I believe to be true, and I am hopeful that your words will be beneficial to all.

And in no way do I see what you have said as being inconsistent with what Fr Wells holds or the RCC. With regard to the former, I was simply trying to elicit from him what I strongly believed to be his beliefs; as to the latter, I doubt it much cares what I think.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby writes:

"I did show that some verses are more naturally interpreted as ontological in meaning, e.g., Ephesians 4.24, and answered your attempt to interpret it merely forensically."

For those who do not have a Bibe handy, here is the RSV translation:
"but on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

Father, there is a rule of exegesis that texts less plain are interpreted by those more clear. The abstract noun "righteousness,"
while not clearly forensic, has nothing about it here to distance it from its clearly forensic cognates: dikaiow and dikaiwma (delare righteous, and acquittal). Even if Eph 4.24 were entirely non-forensic (which I do not grant), this would not overthrow the forensic usage of dikaiow (the word actually under discussion) in numerous texts in Romans, Galatians, and I Cor. So your text Eph 4:24 proves nothing, as it does not even include the term under debate. Your phrase "more naturally interpreted" is question-begging, since it really means "more convenient to my way of looking at things."

As for the view of Justification common to Luther, Calvin, Hooker, and Wesley not being the Patristic view or meeting the the test of the Vincentian Canon, here your argument is strongly reminiscent of the opponents of Athanasius who argued that "homo-ousion" was a new-fangled word.

In the apologetic from you and others for the CCC, it should be noticed that that estimable document (for all its irenic style and devotional tone) has numerous citations to the Decrees of the Council of Trent. Do you likewise desire to defend Trent's anathemas?

Do you stand by your contention that the Justification debate is a
"mere verbal logomachy"?
Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

Fr. laurence,
I think you make some excellent points in your last post to Fr. Kirby. Your explication of the meaning of justification is very good and obviously defensible by Scripture. I think Fr. Kirby and I know for sure myself would not so much take issue with the imputed righteousness view; this is excellent as far as it goes. I think, if I may be so bold in clearly speaking out of turn, the problem is this view does not go far enough. Instead, the Imputed Righteousness View insists on putting the word • ALONE• with all of its meaning at the end of the term. To my understanding this is not called for. I know you will defend it as such, but I don't think the Scripture, Tradition and the Authoritative witness of Christian History prior to the Reformation justifies (no pun intended) the ALONE part of Imputed Righteousness.

As an aside, I am woefully inadequate to discuss these issues as any kind of expert. I have however read through and contemplated many other explications on the issue of Justification from those other than Fr. Laurence, or Lutheran, Calvinist etc... In short, the debate on these issues is not nearly as settled in The Church universal as Fr. Laurence seems to want to believe.

Pat

Anonymous said...

Pray forgive my numerous typing errors, but particularly "but on the new nature" for "PUT on the new nature." As a matter of some interest, Luther used this metaphor of clothing (the liturgical chrism garment is based on it) as NT evidence of the externality of our Justification through the "iustitia aliena" (the "righteousness of Another).

Two further citations:
Alan Richardson, Theological Word Boolk of the Bible, on "Justification," writes:

"The verb dikaiow ('justify') does not mean to make just .... On man's part the essential condition for justification is faith in Christ....Justification is the first step in the process of salvation, that first reconciliation to God which is the beginning of a steady growth in grace and in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18). This is a process, but justification is that immediate setting-right with God which God himself accomplishes by His grace when man has faith." (This was authored by decidedly non-Calvinist
Norman Snaith.)

Leon Morris, in "The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross," wrote
(p. 274), "nobody who has taken the trouble to examine closely the ninety-two examples of the use of dikaiosyne [righteousness] in the New Testament will doubt that the forensic use is primary there."

It is poor argumentation to find here and there an occurrence of the word "righteousness" where the forensic connotation SEEMS to be absent, and then use such a text to weasel out of the plainly forensic meanings found in the majority of instances.

As to whether expressions such as "righteousness and holiness" are used synonymously in Eph 4:24, it might be helpful to dig in our Greek grammar for the distinctions between "kai" and "te kai." I have not examined each NT instance, but here at least we have the conjunction "kai," linking two distinctly different things. The distinction between kai and te kai is roughly equivalent to that between et and que in Latin.
Laurence K. Wells

For those with a serious interest in the topic, this work by Morris
is invaluable.

Anonymous said...

Pat, I apologize for not responding to your last post, asking how I would defend the "sola" in "fide sola"

Historically, it needs to be recalled that Luther was far from the first to make this inference. Hans Kung in his great work gives a long list of pre-Reformation theologians who argued similarly. He points out that pre-Reformation Bible translations (which most Protestants have never heard about) into both German and Italian made the same insertion in Romans 3:28. This was found in a German translation as early as 1483 (the year of Luther's birth) and an Italian translation in 1476.
Bellarmine pointed out that support for the formula could be could in Aquinas himself, in his comments on 1 Tim 1.8.

So you can't get far with the old canard that Luther "added" the sola in Romans 3:28. History is against you.

The text in question is "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." As far as God's pardoning decree is concerned, faith and the works of the law are mutually exclusive. Tavard writes beautifully, "Sola fide makes good sense when it is used to express what was stressed in the foregoing chapters--that is, the total incapacity of man for any kind of self-justification. In justification, the sinner can give nothing which he does not receive by God's grace. He stands there with his hands entirely empty.... This is the man who does not dash off on a charger, but whose power lies in quietness and trust, who receives the kingdom of God like a little child, and who says nothing else than a Marian "let it be unto me."

Doctrinally, If you object to the "sola" in "fide sola," then I must ask, faith and what else? What is the other element? Works are excluded. Love seems attractive as a second element(who can object to love?), but love is only another name for virtuous deeds, and a basis for boasting. The point of fide sola is its sheer minimality. This is the mustard seed which moves mountains. God declares the sinner righeous not because the sinner has love in his heart but because he simply looks to Jesus and says "Lord, remember me."
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to thy cross I cling.
Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

No, no, no!

"... In short, the debate on these issues is not nearly as settled in The Church universal as Fr. Laurence seems to want to believe."

Pat, if you only get one thing from my comments, it has been to establish that the Justification issue is still the "Grand Question" which Hooker said it was. I would be very far from declaring (as Fr Kirby does) that the debate can be resolved by the Rodney King principle.

Fr Wells

Anonymous said...

Fr. Laurence,

Thanks for responding. Again, I find myself in agreement with you for the most part. I am aware of the history regarding sola fide. No problem there. Sola Fide can be expressed in a way that is absolutely in harmony with Roman Catholic teaching. In short, I think the objection comes in the various construals of the term. More specifically it comes with the imputed righteousness vs. the imparted righteousness. I think the RCC teaches that it is a both/and not an either/or. IOW, the RCC agrees with just about everything you say (properly understood) regarding fide sola. The RCC would say that it doesn't go far enough to satisfy all the Scriptural data. I was attempting to point out that the issue as you have presented it is far from a matter of "fact' as I think you indicated in one post.

As a side note, isn't it true that the Eastern Orthodox Church- many of whom literally speak the Greek language- has a view of Justification more like the RCC than the one you are presenting? IOW, the infused notion not just imputed notion is their understanding and teaching as well.

Again, thanks for taking the time to respond.
Pat

Fr. Robert Hart said...

As a side note, isn't it true that the Eastern Orthodox Church- many of whom literally speak the Greek language- has a view of Justification more like the RCC than the one you are presenting?

The classic Orthodox mind would be offended by the idea of having so much in common with Rome. But, in terms of emphasis, I can see why it might seem that way.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

It occurs to me we may be talking at cross purposes. Are you saying that it is wrong for the RCC to use the j-word in an imputational + impartational (= forgiveness + renewal) sense in its own definitions and explanations of salvation? Or are you simply objecting to them forcing this interpretation on every occurence of the word in the NT?

If the former, your own quotations are against you, since Wesley accepted impartational connotations in some verses and Snaith only made the forensic definition "primary", which is not solitary. If the normal RC usage exists anywhere in the NT, they can use it.

If the latter objection is yours, you are labouring under the misconception that it is binding on RCs to interpret this family of words impartationally everywhere they exegete them. It isn't, and, from what I have seen, they don't always do it.

Your construal of my phrase "more naturally interpreted" was incorrect. You say "justified" normally means declared-not-guilty and righteousness or justification means not-guiltiness, so to speak. I and the RCC say justified can also mean "purified and made inwardly good, or shown to be so" and justification or righteousness can mean "inward purification or goodness or its demonstration". So ...

Rom 6.13: "yield ... your members to God as instruments of [goodness OR not-guiltiness?]". The former is more natural.

Rom 6.16: "you are slaves of ... obedience, which leads to [goodness demonstrated OR not-guiltiness?]". The former is more natural, the latter would imply our declaration of innocence (forgiveness) is based on our works, which everybody denies.

Eph 4.24: "put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true [goodness OR not-guiltiness]". In the image of God as good or God as not guilty? Pretty obvious that the latter is ridiculous.

So, the real question is whether the RCC says anything about FORGIVENESS which is significantly different to what others say about imputational JUSTIFICATION. Well, the RCC says F. grants us innocence, is not merited, except by the Cross, is received sola gratia by truly penitent and living faith and leads directly to renewal. Which is what others say about imputational J. Yep, that's what I'd call a logomachy. Unless you are also claiming something about J. denied by the RCC about F., e.g., once justified, eternally justifified. Are you?

I cannot make sense of your reference to Athanasius. Please answer these questions as well, if you have time: do you consider yourselves bound never to interpret Scripture, use language or explain soteriology in such a way that conflicts with or condemns common or consensual teaching of the Fathers and the RCC and EOC? Or do you think you are permitted to say that the Fathers, RCC and EOC are all joined in error by using the j-word inconsistently with the normal protestant use? If your answers are no and yes respectively, how do you reconcile this with the Affirmation of St Louis and the normative teaching of Anglican Catholicism?

I have a synod this weekend, so I cannot do much more on this issue for now. But I will be interested in any answers to the above questions. BTW, I think Pat was originally not referring to sola fide but imputation "alone" as the meaning of J. in her earlier post.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kirby: Where to begin? Well, let's tackle this sentence:

"You say "justified" normally means declared-not-guilty and righteousness or justification means not-guiltiness, so to speak."

"Not-guiltiness" is very far from anything I have said about Justification. Justification is NOT innocence, it is ACQUITTAL of the guilty. Can you grasp the distinction?

You exegesis of Eph 4:24 is not based on the Greek text, where the phrase "image of God" does not appear. That is a gloss introduced by the RSV, repeated in ESV oddly, but a point where AV and RV are more accurate. The Greek phrase is simply "kata theon."

Here are translations from KJV and NIV respectively:
"And that put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

"Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

So you are far off base in the attempt to make "righteousness" modify "God." The prepositional phrase "in true righteousness and holiness" modies the leading verb "put on." As I explained to you already, the metaphor of that verb is that of clothing--which is external, not internal. Paul's thought here seems to be that "righteousness" (by imputation) leads to "holiness" (by impartation or infusion." (People tend to become like the clothes they are wearing, as any headmaster well knows.) So I am still waiting for a text where "justify" is used in a non-forensic sense.

Let me unpack for you my Athanasius analogy. You seem to think you are making a point by bringing up a well known fact, that prior to the Great Divide of AD 1054 there was little attention to Justification as such, even by Augustine. What the Reformers grasped was admittedly a radically new insight into NT theology. Well, when Athanasius had to deal with the Arian heresy, he invoked was was then a new term--homo-ousion. The Arians tried to score points by harping on the novelty of the word.


I don't see where much is gained by substituting "forgiveness" for "justification." This was a buzz amongst liberal Protestants back in the time of Paul Tillich, who wanted to substitute "warm" words like "forgiveness" or "acceptance" for the "cold" forensic term justification. The underlying agenda with them was a forgiveness without atonement, pardon without reference to the Cross.

Your appeals to the Patristic church overlook a simple distinction between that which is CONTRARY to Patristic teaching, and that which they simply did not have time to address. Your references to the mortal/venial sin distinction (as distinction I do not dispute) are also post-Patristic--as much as the Evangelical doctrine of Justification.

Father, have you read Hans Kung's work on Justification? Have you read Joseph Fitzmyer's Commentary on Romans in the Anchor Bible series?

Good success with your Synod. God bless.

Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

vpjsawvqFr. Laurence,

Help me, a layman, to understand something regarding Justification. Perhaps if I just gave you my very crude understanding of what I here you saying you will understand something of my perplexity in seeing your understanding of Justification.

I here you saying that when a christian is born anew/born again/ born from above (presumably through baptismal regeneration), at that exact moment they are at one and the same time a friend of God and an enemy of God. IOW, something along the lines of Luther's simul justus et pecator. If this is what you mean then it is strange to me how a "new born" creation- ie, a new creation that enjoys not just mere human adoption but Divine adoption, indeed Divine sonship through adoption) can also be at enmity with God. It seems to contradict other aspects of the Gospel that we know and believe to be True. IOW, it's not that you are poorly defending your position via Scripture ( in fact you are doing a great job); it's just that you seem to be emphasizing the Imputed to such an extreme that you are neglecting that the infused aspects are also occuring at the initial point of New Birth. It seems to me that it is a "both/and" not an "either/or" right from the start and all the way through to the beatific vision, ie, Heaven.

Pat

Anonymous said...

Pat: I'll start at the end of your question. If I am over-emphasizing the Justification aspect of salvation, it is only in protest against the Roman tendency to suppress it altogether. The view I plead for posits a perfect balance between Justification and Sanctification. Here again is the classic statement:

"Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ in that God, in justification, imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification, his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued; the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection."

Regeneration is the beginning of new life in the sinner, whereby he becomes a part of God's New Creation. This beginning enables him to see himself as estranged from his Creator by sin, to repent of that sin, and turn to Christ in faith. Think of that beginning (using an analogy from a geometry class) as a single point on a plane, where two lines commence.
One line leads progressively toward God; that line is sanctification.
The other line is God's once-for -all judicial decree declaring the sinner righteous. How can God do this? Because the sinner's faith, given in regeneration, has united him to Christ, so that all of Christ's righteousness suddenly and unexpectedly and undeservedly belongs to the sinner. That is what the NT, particularly Paul in Romans and Galatians, means by justification.

Baptism, as you say, is the sacrament, the effective sign of Regeneration, Justification, and Adoption (of which we haven't said very much). Whether all this is chronologically contemporary to the moment of Baptism is God's business, but we have His word that Baptism is an effective sign of all these things.

Now this event of justification brings about an interesting situation for the sinner. He continues to be a sinner (although through sanctification he makes progress and sins less and less). But he has been declared as pardoned, acquitted, and accepted by God, IOW, he is legally righteous even if not internally holy.
This is a paradoxical situation, which Paul described as "the flesh lusting against the spirit," the old sinful nature (the Old Man) in conflict with the new regenerate nature (the New Man, part of the New Creation). Luther expressed this conflict, which Paul speaks of frequently, with the shocking expression, simul iustus et peccator--at the very same time a righteous man and a sinner. This expression should not be problematic to any Christian who understands his own spirituality in Paul's terms of flesh vs. spirit.
But strangely, in the various discussions between RC's and Lutherans, RC's and Anglicans and others, this is the point at which agreement breaks down.

Hope this will help.
Laurence K. Wells

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Pat:

I assume you probably know the feeling of joy when walking out of the confessional, having heard the sacramental words of absolution. I assume you believe at that moment two things: 1) Your sins are forgiven, and 2) you are still a sinner. How can you see this as a contradiction, when it is so obviously true?

In light of this, Luther's little phrase should make perfect sense to you.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart,
Your response is most helpful to the matter. You said:

"I assume you probably know the feeling of joy when walking out of the confessional, having heard the sacramental words of absolution. I assume you believe at that moment two things: 1) Your sins are forgiven, and 2) you are still a sinner. How can you see this as a contradiction, when it is so obviously true?"

"In light of this, Luther's little phrase should make perfect sense to you."

Now, there is indeed much to say about this. I don't have a lot of time now , but let me say simply that the fact that I believe that I am a sinner when I walk out of confession is not, properly speaking, itself an actual sin in need of forgiveness. This is what is unclear about the expression "simul justus et peccator". Frankly, it is a little "sloppy" theologically speaking. It lacks precision and thus can be taken many different ways which indeed it has. Anyway,that's it for now. Thanks!
Pat

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...let me say simply that the fact that I believe that I am a sinner when I walk out of confession is not, properly speaking, itself an actual sin in need of forgiveness. This is what is unclear about the expression "simul justus et peccator".

I do not see how it is unclear. It is not a sin to be a sinner; as ironic as that may sound. You leave the confessional justified, but not yet perfect; forgiven and likely to sin again if only involuntarily. You leave it simul justus et peccator, even if several minutes elapse before some venial sin arises. That is, unless you are very unusual, and far more holy than I.

The way that saints have often described themselves makes them seem like the worst people of all (especially St.Paul, chief of sinners by his own reckoning); for they are more aware of their sins the more they grow in sanctification.

Anonymous said...

The Roman critics of this fomula have never (as far as I know) suggested that it is unclear; they simply regard it as false. What the formula denies is that the Christian alternates between being in a "state of grace" and a "state of sin," as RC penitential theology states. The paradox of grace is that the Christian is at one and the same time in both states.

Kung found the truth expressed in this slogan in the Tridentine Mass itself. When the shriven communicant, presumably in a "state of grace" comes to the Altar to receive Holy Communion, the last words from his lips are "Domine, non sum dignus." This follows just after reciting, once again, the Confiteor.

Karl Barth explained helpfully that the believing Christian is not "iustus" in the same sense that he is "peccator." He is "peccator" in a pragmatic sense (in that even at his best, he falls short of the glory of God). He is iustus by a gracious Divine fiat which anticipates his final destiny.
Laurence K. Wells+

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

The phrase could, it seems, qualify either to "put on", "created" or "like God". My impression was that the grammatical construction does not of itself prove whether the phrase is adverbial or adjectival in intent, just as it doesn't in English. The word order makes one of the 2 latter possibilities listed above more likely, and the use of the word "true" suggests the legal fiction approach is eisegesis. Which is precisely why both the English translations you prefer place the commas where they do!

Replace righteousness with acquittal and the verse still makes less natural sense. Given normal protestant usage, which accepts either "acquitted" or "declared not guilty" as the equivalent of "justified", I don't see a problem with my imputational renditions of the verses. However, if you wish to replace with your preferred word it matters not: the imputational versions of those verses still make less sense than the ontological or ethical ones.

As for your Athanasian analogy, it fails for two reasons. One, some Fathers do interpret the j-words explicitly or implicitly in their sermons or commentaries, a few imputationally but NONE exclusively imputationally, i.e., as contrasted to impartation. In fact, many clearly interpret the words as including internal righteousness. So a an attempt to dogmatically require pure imputationalism is anti-patristic, and not merely a new answer to a post-patristic question. Two, Athanasius used a "new" non-biblical word to teach a biblical doctrine, he did not interpret a biblical word with an innovative exclusivism and then demand all submit to this interpretation ex fide.

Your implication that equating justification with forgiveness is somehow an anti-gospel tactic is rather strange in the light of Romans 4.6-8, the foundation passage for the imputational sense, and the quotation from Wesley you gave with approval to explain your own position: "The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins."

Finally, if you accept the distinction between venial and mortal sin, then how can you deny that Christians are capable of going from a "state of grace" to a "state of sin" (and back again through repentance)? What is the difference between venial and mortal sin other than the fact the latter substantially changes our relationship with God, cutting us off from Life by our own free will, while the former does not? Otherwise, why call it deadly? You seem to contrast this orthodox position with this alternative: "He is iustus by a gracious Divine fiat which anticipates his final destiny." Do you mean all who have ever been justified must of certainty remain so, even while in unrepented mortal sin, and that because justification is always and absolutely eternally and unconditionally efficacious? If so, do you really believe this position is consistent with the Vincentian Canon? You still do not answer this question. I do not understand why. Nevertheless, I do not object myself to the Lutheran phrase, as long is it is not interpreted to mean there is no difference between the imperfect but graced/forgiven/penitent Christian with living faith who is still suffering from concupiscence, and the Christian who has sinned seriously, knowingly and wilfully and not repented. The latter is "in sin" in the formal and proper sense and is not justified at present. The former is afflicted with "sinfulness" but forgiven and just. Denial of either of these last two sentences is not compatible with the Fathers, or the Anglican, RC or EO formularies.

P.S.

No, I have not read the works to which you refer, though I have, from memory read some of J.F.'s work in other books. I cannot remember whether I read anything of his relevant to the j-words. I have however, come across both respected RC and protestant work which accepts that the j-words can be mainly imputational or much more than imputational in the NT. There is no scholarly consensus now or ecclesial consensus in the past that the j-words must be interpreted non-impartationally.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart & Others,
This discussion has been most helpful to me and I thank everyone here. I am a Roman Catholic and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these matters here. I am also, in a real sense, way out of my league. In fact, it's a little frightening. So, I wish to continue in the discussion, but I will do so by deferring to the only official Magisterial document to come out of the Joint Declaration between Catholics and Lutherans. I find that most people are aware that there was a Joint Declaration, however, they are unaware of the Eight Official Clarifications given by the CDF ( lead at the time by Card. Ratzinger). The First Clarification is given here and addresses the issue of," Simul Justus Et Peccator."


CLARIFICATIONS


1. The major difficulties preventing an affirmation of total consensus between the parties on the theme of Justification arise in paragraph 4.4 The Justified as Sinner (nn. 28-1,0 ). Even taking into account the differences, legitimate in themselves, that come from different theological approaches to the content of faith, from a Catholic point of view the title is already a cause of perplexity. According, indeed, to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in baptism everything that is really sin is taken away, and so, in those who are born anew there is nothing that is hateful to God (3). It follows that the concupiscence that remains in the baptised is not, properly speaking, sin. For Catholics, therefore, the formula "at the same time righteous and sinner", as it is explained at the beginning of n. 29 ("Believers are totally righteous, in that God forgives their sins through Word and Sacrament ...Looking at themselves ... however, they recognize that they remain also totally sinners. Sin still lives in them..."), is not acceptable.

This statement does not, in fact, seem compatible with the renewal and sanctification of the interior man of which the Council of Trent speaks (4). The expression "Opposition to God" (Gottwidrigkeit) that is used in nn. 28-30 is understood differently by Lutherans and by Catholics, and so becomes, in fact, equivocal. In this same sense, there can be ambiguity for a Catholic in the sentence of n. 22, "... God no longer imputes to them their sin and through the Holy Spirit effects in them an active love", because man's interior transformation is not clearly seen. So, for all these reasons, it remains difficult to see how, in the current state of the presentation, given in the Joint Declaration, we can say that this doctrine on "simul iustus et peccator" is not touched by the anathemas of the Tridentine decree on original sin and justification.

The entire document is worth reading. I find it to be very clear and precise. If you go to the Google bar and type in, "8 Clarifications on the Joint Declaration", it will bring you to the Document on the Vatican Website. Check it out! I would be interested to here your responses.

Pat

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Pat, for this:

"I find that most people are aware that there was a Joint Declaration, however, they are unaware of the Eight Official Clarifications given by the CDF ( lead at the time by Card. Ratzinger)."

Many people, including some commenters here, seem to think that the Joint Declaration abolished the problem forever, just because some liberal main-line Lutherans accepted it. As you point out, this is not the case.

I have very much appeciated your contributions. You do have some real information at your command, and moreover, you write clearly and coherently. You also have the mental acuity to grasp what others have said. That is not always the case, sad to say.
Thanks,
Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

Fr. Laurence,
Thanks for responding. Your words are kind. Thanks. I went back through and read one of your last posts in this thread and was struck by a few things. Here is one thing you said:

"This is a paradoxical situation, which Paul described as "the flesh lusting against the spirit," the old sinful nature (the Old Man) in conflict with the new regenerate nature (the New Man, part of the New Creation). Luther expressed this conflict, which Paul speaks of frequently, with the shocking expression, simul iustus et peccator--at the very same time a righteous man and a sinner. This expression should not be problematic to any Christian who understands his own spirituality in Paul's terms of flesh vs. spirit.
But strangely, in the various discussions between RC's and Lutherans, RC's and Anglicans and others, this is the point at which agreement breaks down."

Now, you, of course, have said many things, but this is a great point in the discussion. Especially this:

"This expression should not be problematic to any Christian who understands his own spirituality in Paul's terms of flesh vs. spirit. "

I like this and agree with it. I understand my own spirituality in this way. In fact, In reading through Galatians 5 I realize that there is so much to talk about it's mind-boggling, to me at least. For instance, it is in this chapter that Paul gives us a list of the "deeds of the flesh" which "Anyone" who commits them will not inherit eternal life, ie, Heaven. He lists disputes, dissentions and factions in the list. To me, and I certainly could be wrong,it seems as though these three deeds of the flesh apply to the situation between Anglicans, RC's and EOC's (not to mention all others who claim to be christian).

Now, as for the "flesh vs. spirit," Paul says in Gal. 5:16 the following, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." To me, this sounds like the key emphasis for the mindset of us as christians. IOW, when I leave confession 1). I am forgiven of all my sins at that moment 2). It is best to leave the confessional with this in my mind: If I walk by the Spirit, I will not carry out the desires of the flesh. I am also reminded of our Lord's words, "Go and sin no more." The Lord believes we have the ability (through His Grace) to make free-will choices in our life. Why would our Lord tell anyone in any situation to, "Go and sin no more." if it wasn't possible to indeed, "sin no more." ( again, through Grace Alone). So, with the" Justified as sinner" idea this emphasis seems to get lost and indeed seems to be completely lost on some groups of christians. The emphasis becomes one of confessing your sin, being forgiven of all of your sin, but I am still nothing but a poor sinner- almost as if their reprobate nature is still fully intact with no hope ever of freedom in Christ's righteousness. It's as if they are saying, "Once a sinner, always a sinner." IOW, the stress on, "always a sinner" is such that they will in some magical way die with sin in them and go right to eternal beatitude. Kind of like the way Bunyans, 'Christian" simply walks through the gate of heaven at the end. He is, of course, 'covered' in the Righteousness of Christ, but, that's all it takes; any Sanctifying Grace is nice but it's ultimately superfluous. You do not need to really grow in holiness. It is for this reason,ie, that we run a danger on any side of the dispute/dissention/faction of going into heresy.

GK Chesterton said in his book, "Orthodoxy" that there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which he stands. It seems to me that getting it right on Justification is pretty important in how the leaders of the Church actually do the, "Leading and Feeding" of the sheep. To lead and feed wrongly and in error would lead people to eternal hell. Sometimes I get the sense that the leaders are so busy in their disputes with each other; each standing on their own ground and the sheep are left unattended and just give in to believing what their taught where ever that happens to be and lose any hope that there could be a true resolution to the disputes here on earth- "so that the world may know He was sent by the Father."

Pat

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I think that a problem exists that is mostly one of terminology. If we say: "Simultaneously justified and afflicted with concupiscence," it is not very different.

I have never agreed with the rejection of simul iustus et peccator. It seems to contradict the very reason why a difference exists between venial and mortal sin. The most obvious problem is that a man may be in a state of grace, and in a sin concerning which he is wholly ignorant, though he possess no malice (in the casuistric sense).

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart: RC theology attempts to draw a firm distinction between sin and concupiscence, which historic Evangelical theology rejects. Sin is sin, and cannot be disguised by another term.
Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

From Pat's last fine comment:
"Why would our Lord tell anyone in any situation to, "Go and sin no more." if it wasn't possible to indeed, "sin no more." ( again, through Grace Alone)."

LKW's response:
"This is where the distinction between present and aorist imperatives is helpful. In this phrase at Jno 5:14 and 8:11, we do not have an aorist, to signify instantaneous action, but a present, showing pregressive action. "Do not continue to sin" is the import. Do you know anyone who has literally kept this command? If Jesus expected or demanded that, we are all lost.
Instead we read, "if we say that we have no sin [and it's just concupiscence], we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."

From Pat again:
"So, with the Justified as sinner" idea this emphasis seems to get lost and indeed seems to be completely lost on some groups of christians. The emphasis becomes one of confessing your sin, being forgiven of all of your sin, but I am still nothing but a poor sinner- almost as if their reprobate nature is still fully intact with no hope ever of freedom in Christ's righteousness. "

I won't dispute this. It was a great Lutheran, Bonhoeffer, who analyzed the parody of Justification which he called "cheap grace" (an error which takes many forms).

From Pat again:
"Kind of like the way Bunyans, 'Christian" simply walks through the gate of heaven at the end."

LKW responds: Read Pilgrim's Progress again. Reflect on the very title of the work! Note the way that Christian, on his long journey, is inwardly transformed.
Bunyan was a great writer in this respect.

Pat again:
"He is, of course, 'covered' in the Righteousness of Christ, but, that's all it takes; any Sanctifying Grace is nice but it's ultimately superfluous."

LKW:
Pat, that is a horrible caricature of Bunyan and of Reformation theology in general, on the same level as the charge that RC's believe in salvation by good works. Notice again my quote that "Sanctification is inseparably linked to Justification."

Luther tended to over-emphasize J at the expense of S. Calvin re-established the balance between the two, but maintained the distinction. The critics of the Evangelical doctrine of J consistently ignore that balance--just as pig-headedly as many Protestants continue to say "Catholics worship Mary as a goddess."

While I'm at it, Pat, also notice that I have NOT affirmed one of Luther's worst over-statements, "articulum stantis aut cadentis ecclesiae," which unfortunately Reformed theologians have bought into. While I happen to believe that Reformation theology had the right end of the stick in its interpretation of the NT on Justification, for me this does NOT make the difference between a true and false church. The Tridentine/CCC telescoping of J and S is a very serious error, but not a fatal error.

Also, it is noteworthy that Luther did not discover the doctrine of J independently, but learned it from
a fellow Augustinian, von Staupitz, some great while before his encounter with Tetzel. And where did Luther learn this? In the Confessional! The role of the Confessional in the dissemination of this doctrine is significant.
Laurence K. Wells

Anonymous said...

Fr, Laurence & Fr. Hart &Fr. Kirby et al,

Thanks so much for this discussion. The charity is truly Christ-like and I am grateful. In fact, hearing Fr. Laurence point out that Justification is NOT the doctrine of which the Church stands or falls is refreshing and this becomes obvious as one walks through the myriad of details involved in capturing the Truth with regard to the nature of Grace, let alone capturing and expressing the fullness of Truth (certainly the theological/doctrinal claims) of the Gospel.

Now, a couple of thoughts: You said:

"Read Pilgrim's Progress again. Reflect on the very title of the work! Note the way that Christian, on his long journey, is inwardly transformed.
Bunyan was a great writer in this respect."

Simply put Fr. Laurence, You're right! I was reaching here and did not need to use Bunyan to do so to get at what I was thinking about. However, it's the "inwardly transformed" aspect that raises some thoughts for me.

I attempted to raise these thoughts earlier but it did not get picked up on. Basically, I want to know if you teach that Sanctifying Grace is required for Salvation? You said that,"Sanctification is inseparably linked to Justification." and you asserted that "Calvin re-established the balance between the two, but maintained the distinction." I think there are a great deal of christians out there teaching similar things, but actually explaining it very differently. Even contradicting themselves on the matter. To me, there seems to be a distinction without a difference. I know there is a difference, as everyone admits, however, when this 'difference" gets explained it seems to raise more questions than it answers.

Now, I hope you will not exclude the following in any response you give to this post. It has to do with the New Birth in Christ- Baptism. On October 28, 1962 I was Born Again/Born Anew/Born from Above through infant Baptismal Regeneration. Original Sin was washed away. From that moment until I reached the age of accountability and CHOSE to sin I literally had NO sin (venial or mortal) on my soul. There was NOTHING in me that was hateful to God; NO enmity. Indeed there was no," At the same time Justified and sinner." This seems to me to be what the RCC is saying about the Christians life in Christ. It is worth noting, at least in my mind, that as an infant I enjoyed FULL Personhood. Developmentally, it would be years before I could engage my intellect and will, however, and I may be way out of line here by anyone's theology;so I apologize ahead of time,--It seems as though I was at least "complete" in Grace if not fully completed (past tense). This state would have course been so until I chose sin over God. This is where I see Fr. Hart's point come in to play. IOW, at this very moment as I type this response it seems obvious to me that I am indeed "At the same time Justified and sinner." I know this because I am conscious of, at the very least venial sins ( even if I was not aware they would still be there). So, I am Justified and sinner at the same time. There is a sense at which I want to say, Duh! However, this is the point at which different theologies on the matter seems to take off in numerous directions. To me, the mere fact that there is, at this moment, venial sin in me not only does this not take away my Just state before God, but it also does not take away my free-will choice to turn again in repentance and receive forgiveness and a return to the clean state of initial Grace-the one with NO sin at all. We know this as Sacramental Confession. At the moment of absolution, to me, only one thing is true and that is my Justification. Although by the fact of nature (God-given) I still have the free-will ability to choose God or sin this free-will ability is a gift not itself a sin. If I have at all expressed my true thoughts and feelings about this matter then there is a sense in which the whole "Justified as sinner" phrase is true, but it does not need to be raised to some doctrinal or dogmatic expression. It certainly doesn't necessitate separation in the Body of Christ-The Church. Finally, I see the Simul justus Et Peccator as a kind of Human's Eye view of our daily experience as christians. I see the RCC's response in the Eight Clarifications as a more God's Eye/Divine view of the matter. Anyway, thanks again for the chance to discuss these issues.

Pat

Fr. Robert Hart said...

RC theology attempts to draw a firm distinction between sin and concupiscence, which historic Evangelical theology rejects.

The RCC uses "concupiscence" to mean the same thing as St. Paul meant by "the flesh" when he spoke of its weakness, its bent toward sin and death. Using New Testament terms, does "the flesh" mean the same as "sin" when it speaks of a state into which mankind has fallen? I believe there is distinction, but a very fine one. The flesh is helpless against sin, in fact sympathetic to sin. It is this way due to original sin.

But, I see a fine distinction between that and sin committed, whether venial or mortal, willful or involuntary.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart: to my way of thuinking,
the distinction between concupiscence and actual sin is only a matter of degree. The "bent to sinning" partakes of the very nature of sin, as it falls short of the glory of God. Otherwise, why would we pray to have it removed? I wish Jesus had never said things like Matt 5:28, but must confess that he did.
Laurence K. Wells

Albion Land said...

Careful here, Fr Laurence, if I may be so bold.

Temptation to sin is not sin. It only starts becoming so when we begin to seriously entertain that temptation, increasing as we decide to act (or refrain from acting) and culminating in its gravity when we ultimately do the deed (or, again, refrain from doing a deed).

Yes, the fact that we are even tempted is evidence of the world's brokenness, but it is not sin.

Anonymous said...

So what do you make of this text, Albion:
"You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Is this just concupiscence or is it sin? What did Jesus say?
Lawrence K. Wells

Albion Land said...

My point, exactly. Looking with "lustful intent" is indisputably a sin (especially since Our Lord said so). But the operative word is intent. Go back and look at what I said, perhaps awkwardly.

Tonight, or tomorrow, I shall try to post a separate item on this. I just have to remember my source, which lays it out quite well.

Death Bredon said...

Dear All,

Following up on Albion's comment:
I believe that, in the Eastern Tradition at least, monks frequently "confess" their "mere temptations," especially the ones they actually entertain for more than a fleeting second but nevertheless are able to banish from their minds. Though they may not be confessing sins pre se, the goal of those who have taken the radical Christianity of the Cloth is a progress toward perfection such that even "mere temptations" themselves rarely enters the mind at all! Such an amazing purity of heart does occur and I believe that I have personally met such men and women living today (in cloistered monastery's, which I think helps.)

OTOH, a spiritual novice "in the world," like myself, may being doing well indeed if he can just manage the self-restraint to not follow through with "very much entertained temptations," much less banish temptation from his head without even dwelling on it a bit! But we each start where we are, and confess what is useful (committed, major sins at a minimum) given the spiritual elders we have.

Sincerely,

Lord Peter

Anonymous said...

Albion: don't put too much freight on the word "intent" in that text.
RSV has simply "lustfully" which is closer to the Greek. The more I find out about this distinction between sin and concupiscence, the more convenient it looks! How nice to hear that my concupiscent desires aren't really sinful! This makes me wonder about the 10th commandment: Is it really a sin to covet, or is that just concupiscence? After all, I have never formed a conscious or voluntary intention of coveting.
Laurence K. Wells

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr., I don't see your point about the tenth commandment. Covetousness comes from a lack of charity, and is itself an injustice. It is not automatic. And, even the person who does not covet (in the sinful sense) still has the flesh as his enemy. Yes, it is both an attitude, and a sin. But, it is not everybody's sin, or at least not everybody's sin all of the time. All I was saying was that even when (if this is even possible) we are not sinning, we are sinners.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart: I brought up the 10th commandment, the one about coveting, in response to Albion's
"It [i.e., Temptation] only starts becoming so when we begin to seriously entertain that temptation, increasing as we decide to act (or refrain from acting) and culminating in its gravity when we ultimately do the deed (or, again, refrain from doing a deed)."

While I have frequently been guilty of covetousness, it was never because I went through the spiritual gymnastics outlined here.
I have never said to myself, "I feel tempted to covet my neighbor's Harley-Davidson, oh, the hell with it, I'll just go ahead and covet!"


Now on this statement of yours, I am in complete agreement: "All I was saying was that even when (if this is even possible) we are not sinning, we are sinners."

I am wary of this distinction between sin and concupiscence, even when I see a degree of validity in it. Take the case of a dry alcoholic who starts "romancing" a drink. Thinking nostalgically of the smell, the taste, the sound of ice tinkling in the glass, the camaraderie, the sophisticated atmosphere. He doesnt get drunk from this mental flight of fancy, but you see where he is headed. Telling a person who is still inwardly struggling with Sin X "It's not really sin, it's only concupiscence" can be bad advice.
LKWells

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am not suggesting that a person goes through a process before coveting, only that it is not a given that everybody covets all the time with no means to combat the flesh. The growth of charity restores a just attitude, the ability to rejoice in the good fortune and blessings given to one's neighbor. Therefore, even this sin can be overcome; and yet the saintly person whose virtues have been growing by the Holy Spirit is still a sinner.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

You said: "The more I find out about this distinction between sin and concupiscence, the more convenient it looks!"

But, based on what else you have said, you think it "convenient" and pastorally unwise to make the distinction because of what it would allow Christians to do and dismiss as mere concupiscence. But if you actually do anything in the moral sense, it is an act of the will, even if only of consent to or entertainment of a desire. And Catholic moral theology has always taught that such an internal act itself is actual sin, not mere concupiscence. The original motivation or temptation does not have to be willed for the final act to be so.

Indeed, the example you give of an alcoholic "romancing" a drink illustrates this perfectly as it could well be an actual sin, since it may involve either knowingly consenting to sinful pleasure or knowingly putting oneself into a position where one will commit the outward sin, that is, deliberately fostering an occasion of sin, which is itself a sin! I understand your concerns, but you seem to underestimate traditional moral theology's treatment of these.

What is certainly the case is that Scripture does generally distinguish between temptation and sin, and that it teaches the tendency to sin is within us, but that this tendency or state is not a "sin" in the normal sense until our will acts (James 1.14-15). Desire is not sin, but can "conceive" it. As for Jesus' statement on lust, looking lustfully is not the same as seeing inadvertantly or innocently and then noticing beauty, even if one is affected by it (as long as one does not consent to any arousal, but instead mentally rejects it). Looking is a positive act. Looking lustfully means the act itself is characterised by the lust, which itself implies it is the motive, since lust is an inordinant desire.

The Church has always taught that we are not only forgiven but cleansed and renewed in such a way that the concupiscence that remains is not intrinsic or proper to us in our new identities, so to speak, but an almost alien enemy. See Romans 7.20f and Ephesians 4.22-24 cf. Colossians 3.9-10 & 2 Corinthians 5.17.

Albion Land said...

Fr Laurence,

I have clearly not made myself clear. :>), though Fr Matthew's latest contribution, particularly the citation from James, expands on what I have been trying to say.

Sadly, I still cannot find the material I was looking for that I was going to post separately; I think it is in the Philokalia, but just cannot find it.

It is beautiful, because it describes in great detail the various stages of how one can go from the pure innocence of seeing something to the mortal sin of seizing it in lust, outlining the tell-tale signs of each step and, if I recall correctly, also giving counsel on how to avoid descending, or descending further, into sin.

Anonymous said...

It must be remembered that Sin is not just the occasional sinful acts we are guilty of, in thought word, and deed, by commission and omission. Sin is our condition and our predicament. It is not mitigated or relieved by precious distinctions. Whatever fails to glorify God, or falls short of His glory partakes of the nature of Sin.

Albion speaks of going from "pure innocence" by degrees to grave sin.
I must confess that I have never had a moment of "pure innocence" in my entire life. Any moral theology which speaks of such is not very helpful to sinners like me. A moment of "pure innocence" would be a moment when I would not need Christ.

Paul wrote: "I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate....For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the EVIL I do not want is what I do....Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So I then, of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

If some of what has been written here has any validity, then Paul was talking nonsense. Calm down, Paul! It's only concupiscence! Not to worry!

As St Anselm wrote, Nondum considerasti quantum ponderis sit peccatum.

LKW

Anonymous said...

Hello again all,

This is Pat. Thanks for this discussion. Without seeming presumptuous I would like to have these issues discussed in relation to the New Birth that occurs in an infant at Baptism. My last post in this thread was perhaps too long for anyone to read through (understandably) but, this is the point (infant Baptismal regeneration) that I take issue with. It is my understanding that the infant would have •nothing• in them that is hateful to God after their New Birth. So, if the concupiscence that remains in this same infant is seen as a sin or if we say that this infant is a sinner -ie, simul justus et peccator then this would contradict the idea that there is •nothing• that is hateful to God after the New Birth. There either "IS" or" IS NOT" something that is hateful to God in the Born Again infant. To me it seems that one key is understanding first what it means to be translated from being born a child of the first Adam to being born a child of the second, which is Christ.

Albion Land said...

Fr Laurence,

Mea culpa! I just accidentally deleted your latest comment; it was not to punish you for taking issue with me. :>)

Any chance you can reassemble it, if you don't have it in memory somewhere?

Anonymous said...

Pat: the essence of the Gospel is "God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

There are also some pertinent texts about God justifying the ungodly.

If I take your statement at face value, it would mean something like Baptism (the signum efficax of regeneration) zapping us into perfect sanctity, which is not what you mean.

The miracle of grace is that God simultaneously hates us as sinners and loves us as righteous.

"Look, Father, look, on His anointed face,
And only look on us as found in Him;
Look not on our misusings of thy grace,
Our prayer so languid and our faith so dim;
For lo, between our sins and their reward,
we place the passion of thy Son, our Lord."

If our sin is watered down into mere concupiscence, then such prayers become mere sentimentality.

I recall a theology professor once saying that those who are reluctant for God to justify sinners are very quick for God to justify sin
(i. e., by renaming it concupiscence).

Sorry, Albion, I only cast my pearls once!

LKW

Anonymous said...

Fr. Laurence,
Thanks again for responding. If I take your comments at face value then you are saying that our concupiscence remains in us forever and is •only• covered by Christ's Righteousness and remains in us through eternity into Heaven itself. To be sure, Sanctifying Grace is available, but not needed to attain Heaven. You can not intend to mean this.

Because, as you said,"If our sin is watered down into mere concupiscence", then it is still sin an no sin will enter Heaven. So, at what point will even our concupiscence ( as you interpret and understand it) be removed? In this life? Or, will it be purged in the next? Since you see it as sin then it must be removed. I do not think you want to contend that we will enjoy heaven while we still have this concupiscence, ie, bent toward sin which falls short of God's glory.

Pat



Pat

Albion Land said...

Fr Laurence,

We are clearly not communicating, and I think the problem is we are talking at cross purposes. I'm not sure yet.

So I shall withdraw from the conversation until such time as I have had an opportunity to reflect more thoroughly on the issue, and hopefully to find the paradigm I referred to earlier.

I will make just one parting observation: I do not subscribe to the concept of total depravity, and I reject the assertion that absolutely everything we may think or do is a sin.

I am not absolutely sure you are saying that, but it sure does look like it to me.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Pat:

Your question about baptism should not be limited to infants, since what is true about baptism is true for the convert as well as the infant.

Romans chapter 6 teaches that baptism regenerates by taking us through Christ's death into his resurrection, teaching this as a fact. But, it clearly tells us that we must not, after baptism, continue in sin, apparently speaking of choices we make. It is obvious from the chapter that we continue to battle the flesh.

The text suggests what St.John comes right out and says:

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 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. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." I John 3:1-3

The battle against sin should be through a life of ongoing purification, cooperating with divine grace to sanctification. But, the ultimate hope is to share in Christ's resurrection. That seems to be the point at which we are finally free.

Not even death can do this, since it is itself unclean. Modern people do not understand the Eucharistic Theology in this passage of the Prayer of Humble Access (Anglican service of Holy Communion): "Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen."

The time when we are free from the effects of the Fall, namely original sin, the state of sin and death, will be when we see the risen Christ on the Last Day. We will then be raised from the dead to be like him, because we will see him in his glory.

That too will be grace.

Anonymous said...

Albion: Please do not withdraw, at least not yet. I take note of this statement:
"I reject the assertion that absolutely everything we may think or do is a sin."

I have not made such an assertion, and if you re-read carefully what I have written you will see how wide of the mark this inference is.

Please reflect on the simple but important distinction between "Sin" and "a sin."

The term sin (harmartia) is used in the NT both in singular and plural. This word frequently means particular sins, by omission or commission, in thought, word or deed. But at a deeper level, Sin (note capital) is not merely an occasional occurrence, but rather the condition or predicament in which we exist. For example, the words of the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world." (NT has the singular, unfortunately changed in the liturgy to "sins of the world.") For Paul's words in Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death." Or St John, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves."

It seems to me you have not given much thought to the meaning of Sin in the deeper and larger sense. If you own a Concordance to the Bible, check the occurrences of the word Sin in the singular.

Not everything we think, do, or feel is "a sin." But nothing we do is entirely pure or blameless (if we could claim such a deed, we would have an occasion of boasting, which we know is excluded) Sin then is the human predicament from which we are helpless to extricate ourselves. That's why the Bible calls us "lost." That word, by the way, must be taken seriously.

You say that you do not believe in total depravity. Would you tell me what you think that doctrine holds? If you tell me what "total depravity" you do not believe in, I probably don't believe in it either. And if you do not believe in total depravity, how much depravity do you admit to? If you get to know me better, your opinion of human nature might go down!

Pat: Fr Hart has answered your question well enough, but for the record, let me reassure you, the problem of indwelling sin does NOT last into eternity. Christians grow in grace, growing into the full measure of Christ. "I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ....so that you ... may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ." (Phil. 1:6, 10).

LKW

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Fr Wells,

Your quotation from Romans underscores the very point I was making. "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh ... I then, of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." Since "flesh" is a similar concept to the "old man" we have-left/are-leaving behind, and the "law of sin" is effectively concupiscence, we see that concupiscence of itself is not sin in us as new creatures. Although it remains in us according to the old nature, it does not subsist in us as Christians with new life and identities (unless we again deliberately choose it). God hates the concupiscence in us, but he does not hate us at all as persons, for we (as regenerate and sanctified) are no longer "characterised" by concupiscence in God's sight (due to both his grace and re-creative power) and have been forgiven all our sins. To me, this is a perfect synergy of imputation and impartation.

As for total depravity, since you have said not all our acts are automatically "sins", I see no disagreement. If total depravity means every part, without exception, of fallen man has been infected by Sin, there is no debate. Trent specifically affirms this as well. If total depravity meant there is nothing morally good in any sense in fallen man (though all be corrupted and not pure), this would be going too far, and be opposed to Scripture and the Fathers, especially the Eastern ones.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

As for "mere concupiscence", there is nothing "mere" about it. If God did not both acquit and renew us, that concupiscence of itself would still characterise our fundamental human nature and moral identity and render us alienated from God by both an intrinsically distorted will and a corrupted nature for that will to "work with". Concupiscence of itself is hellish.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

As for "mere concupiscence", there is nothing "mere" about it. If God did not both acquit and renew us, that concupiscence of itself would still characterise our fundamental human nature and moral identity and render us alienated from God by both an intrinsically distorted will and a corrupted nature for that will to "work with". Concupiscence of itself is hellish.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

So, I am happy to rescind my earlier use of the phrase in responding to Fr Wells. Saying "mere concupiscence" does not adequately communicate what I believe it to be.

Albion Land said...

Fr Laurence,

Fr Matthew has answered your question to me about total depravity:

"If total depravity meant there is nothing morally good in any sense in fallen man (though all be corrupted and not pure), this would be going too far, and be opposed to Scripture and the Fathers, especially the Eastern ones."

Meanwhile, to you and any others who may be interested, I am making progress toward finding that paradigm about which I spoke, which is presented in a discussion on temptation. Hopefully, within a week I will have what I am looking for.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Finally, since this thread has taken enough of my time, the reason I think the Scripture implies there is some kind of moral good (albeit imperfect) in the fallen man outside the Covenant is that there are positive indications of this in it. E.g., the Parable of the Good Samaritan, John 1.9, Acts 28.2, Romans 2.14-15. St Paul's statement, quoted earlier, that there is nothing good in the flesh, needs to be read with the accompanying statements about the good in the mind and the desire to obey the Law. I know some have interpreted this passage as exclusively about Christians, but many have not, and there is great difficulty in interpreting it either exclusively of the fallen man awaiting salvation or of the Christian struggling (and mostly losing that struggle) with sin. Romans 8. 4f shows that this is not meant to be the norm for Christian life. Romans 7.14 shows the passage could either be about fallen man (since it is the non-Christian enslaved to sin, not the Christian normally, cf. Romans 6.18) or about the immature ("unspiritual") Christian (cf. 1 Corinthians 3.1).

So, what is the difference between the last part of Romans 7 as a description of the non-Christian and as a description of the struggling Christian? Only the latter can go on to lay hold of Romans 8, so that the inner dilemma is resolved for eternal good. The former is stuck with sin having the upper hand perpetually, until grace is received and accepted, self-justification having been abandoned.

I can only hope this way of putting things is agreeable to both Fr Wells and Fr Hart. I do truly believe that I have interpreted Scripture here consonantly with its own wider teaching and with the consentient interpretation of the Fathers, Eastern and Western. If I have failed, it is not for want of submission to Holy Tradition.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Kirby,
Bravo! And a hearty Amen! Your last several posts have nailed it for me. Your thoughts are another way of getting at what I could only hope to convey. In fact, you really nailed it with the distinction between Romans 7 and Romans 8. I have come to see that this is precisely where Martin Luther got stuck. He allowed himself, it seems to get too focused on Romans 7 when continuing on to Roman 8 gives the glorious answer (the infused Holy Spirit, if you will) to the true freedom we have in Christ. Moreover, Paul in Galatians 5: 24 brings this exact point home by saying, "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." We here belong to Christ and we actively "choose" ie, our God -given active free-will (regenerated) to cooperate by Grace in putting to death the concupiscence that remains in the new Birth.

Pat

Anonymous said...

I feel that we are getting closer, as Fr Kirby writes:

"As for "mere concupiscence", there is nothing "mere" about it. If God did not both acquit and renew us, that concupiscence of itself would still characterise our fundamental human nature and moral identity and render us alienated from God by both an intrinsically distorted will and a corrupted nature for that will to "work with". Concupiscence of itself is hellish."

If concupiscence is so truly serious, then what is the point of the distinction? Is this a distinction without a difference? My impression is (and I confess to ignorance about the history of this word) that it was contrived to minimize the seriousness of residual sin in the regenerate.

With your devotion to The Tradition, do you have any evidence of such a distinction in the Patristic period?

I note with pleasure your language "both acquit and renew." The correlatives "both ... and" seem to acknowledge a distinction.

Peace,
LKW