Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Do we need an Infallible Interpretation of the Bible?

Roman Catholics claim that Protestant theology is deficient because one cannot have infallible certainty about doctrine from scripture because they do not have a infallible church to interpret the Bible infallibly. All they have, according to the Roman Catholic, is the fallible opinions of men. In this post I hope to show that given this line of reasoning that Roman Catholics are in the same position as Protestants and that if there reasoning were consistent then this would require a infinite regress of infallible interpreters.



Roman Catholics are in the same position as Protestants:

If the infallible church infallibly interprets a statement x then the infallible interpretation is going to be interpreted by you, a mere fallible person. In short, the Roman Catholic has to fallibly interpret the infallible church, just like the Protestant has to fallibly interpret the infallible Bible.

A Infinite Regress of Infallible Interpreters:

The Problem is that if the Roman Catholics were consistent with their claims then they would end up having a infinite regress of infallible interpreters. Here is how:

If one lays out a condition for theology that for any statement of faith and practice, that statement ought to be infallibly interpreted.

Here is how such a condition would lead to a infinite regress: For every statement x that is interpreted that interpretation becomes a statement y about a statement x. Furthermore, since that infallible interpretation is a statement y then it needs to be infallibly interpreted by another statement w and once it is infallibly interpreted then w has to be infallibly interpreted and on and on.

The Roman Catholics might object and say that "well there comes a point were you just have to interpret the statement x". But if this is true then it becomes a fallible human opinion and no longer a infallible interpretation of the Church.

The problem with this infallible interpretation principle is that it leads to a unnecessary infinite regress and thus a violation of Ockham's Razor.

Conclusion:

In conclusion we do not need a infallible interpretation of the Bible because the principles behind it lead to a unnecessary infinite regress. There is no reason to think that we cannot know the meaning of scripture without a church infallibly interpreting it. This is why I think it most reasonable to think that we interpret the Bible as fallible creatures before God, we know what it says but we know it as creatures and not as God.

63 comments:

david said...

Logically we protestants have the same problem. We place infallibility in the scripture.

In order to come to understanding we have to interpret said claims, these interpretations are fallible.

Of course, the logical cunundrum is that the Catholic Church, unlike some protestant churches, do require infallibility in interpretation.

Applicationally, their clergy still must use interpretation to act, so the infallibility of lost. It's not a problem of regress (because they do not have regressional interpretations) because they do not pursue it in that manner.

The idea of Church infallibility makes more sense when you have the idea of accountability and authority. It's not that infallibility makes everyone agree on the same application of the same interpretation; this has been demonstrated false. It's that they have one legal body to submit themselves to, instead of many.

Each Protestant affirms the authenticity of their own interpretion and has set the Bible as their unltimate authority; the problem is, their ideas about the Bible lack unity.

Of course, Catholics disagree too; the difference is, that Catholics have priests who are in union on matters to minister to them, preserving a single church order. It's not the interpretation that they attack us for, but the church order; tho they can't distinguish these in their debates with us, because to them they are the same.

To go one step farther, most Protestants I know do act as if they affirm infallibility, but it is the infallibility of their own personal "theology", which many of them equivocate to be absolute truth (which would be equal to God).

This means that instead of having one single traditional authority you have hundreds. This is the problem of the Church Schism, and the Catholics are right it is an issue. But, they are not exempt from it. Each church is part of the universal church; the catholic church is no different, and it is the universal church that is divided by our fighting.

For someone to say "you should become catholic to have unity in the church" (which is the big argument I've heard) is foolish, as it drastically misunderstands the disease of the church.

One more thing, which is to say; Corinthians prescribes true knowledge and understanding as being delivered by a ministry of the spirit; and not legal bodies. In the Catholic church it is the legal church that ministers this spirit; in our own protestant churches it is the Bible. God the minister of truth in both instances.

Fundamentally, the spirit of knowledge for a true Catholic believer and a true protestant believer are identical. There need be no division; because in both instances, whether by submission to his church or holy word, the intention of the believer is to submit to Christ by faith through Grace; it is what this intention stands for, which is faith, that is judged as righteousness.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello David,

You Said:Logically we protestants have the same problem. We place infallibility in the scripture.

Response: Why is it a problem? We do not make the same arguments that Rome and the East make about the necessity of an infallible interpreter.

You Said: In order to come to understanding we have to interpret said claims, these interpretations are fallible.

Response: I agree.

You Said: Of course, the logical cunundrum is that the Catholic Church, unlike some protestant churches, do require infallibility in interpretation.

Response: Yes, I think that is right.

You Said: Applicationally, their clergy still must use interpretation to act, so the infallibility of lost. It's not a problem of regress (because they do not have regressional interpretations) because they do not pursue it in that manner.

Response: The reason why I a have that argument was to show the absurdity of the principle if it were to be followed consistently, but it is not followed consistently. Hence, any principle that entails an absurd conclusion must be rejected as irrational.

You Said: The idea of Church infallibility makes more sense when you have the idea of accountability and authority. It's not that infallibility makes everyone agree on the same application of the same interpretation; this has been demonstrated false. It's that they have one legal body to submit themselves to, instead of many.

Response: Protestants can and do have one legal body that they submit to. I do not submit myself to the PCUSA, I submit myself to the United Reformed Churches.

You Said: Each Protestant affirms the authenticity of their own interpretion and has set the Bible as their unltimate authority; the problem is, their ideas about the Bible lack unity.

Response: As you point out below the Catholics lack unity, if not more so than even Protestants. There have been more Protestants that I have met that affirm justification by faith alone than Roman Catholics on the same issue of justification.

You Said: Of course, Catholics disagree too; the difference is, that Catholics have priests who are in union on matters to minister to them, preserving a single church order. It's not the interpretation that they attack us for, but the church order; tho they can't distinguish these in their debates with us, because to them they are the same.

Response: Roman Catholics do use this argument of the infallible interpreter and analytic philosophers who are Catholic and Eastern Orthodox use this argument very clearly. So in my experience in debating them they do distinguish these issues. I do not know where you getting this odd idea that they do not distinguish these issues. The Protestant group I submit to have one church order as well and not many. So I am not sure what you are getting at here. Sure there are different Protestant denominations and churches that disagree, but how is that a Problem? There many different religions in the world, but does that somehow indicate that the truth is unclear somehow?

Nathanael Taylor said...

You Said: To go one step farther, most Protestants I know do act as if they affirm infallibility, but it is the infallibility of their own personal "theology", which many of them equivocate to be absolute truth (which would be equal to God).

Response: Well then they are simply being inconsistent and this is something that is not essential to being Protestant.

You Said: This means that instead of having one single traditional authority you have hundreds. This is the problem of the Church Schism, and the Catholics are right it is an issue. But, they are not exempt from it. Each church is part of the universal church; the catholic church is no different, and it is the universal church that is divided by our fighting.

Response: Well I think the Catholic reasoning here is flawed because we have one traditional authority, the inspired infallible word of God which we fallibly interpret the Catholic is in no different position than we are. They are just as divided among themselves, the only difference is they are dishonest about their division and we Protestants are not. For them division means damnation and anathema, for us it just merely a sanctification issue among other believers in Christ.

You Said: For someone to say "you should become catholic to have unity in the church" (which is the big argument I've heard) is foolish, as it drastically misunderstands the disease of the church.

Response: I completely agree, it is a false unity.

You Said: One more thing, which is to say; Corinthians prescribes true knowledge and understanding as being delivered by a ministry of the spirit; and not legal bodies. In the Catholic church it is the legal church that ministers this spirit; in our own protestant churches it is the Bible. God the minister of truth in both instances.

Response: I do not think the Catholic Church and what it teaches legally is a saving doctrine, I think it is a false doctrine that sends people to hell. However, there are believers who do not know or agree with the false Gospel of Rome that are in the Roman Catholic church.

You Said: Fundamentally, the spirit of knowledge for a true Catholic believer and a true protestant believer are identical. There need be no division; because in both instances, whether by submission to his church or holy word, the intention of the believer is to submit to Christ by faith through Grace; it is what this intention stands for, which is faith, that is judged as righteousness.

Response: This is true so long as the confused person in the Catholic Church does not reject the Gospel of justification by faith alone.

Thanks for your time.

God Bless,

NPT

david said...

Ahem, there's this thing in debate, where you don't actually address everysingle sentence said, but analyze the major points and disagreements. I'm going to do that here. ;) Some of our disagreements I'm willing to chalk up to different experiences with Catholics.

These are the big things:
I didn't mean that that was a problem. I meant, "We have the same problem of not having inerrant transaltion." from there, "we place infallibility in the scripture" was intended to be a subpoint.

It should have read. "To explain.... we place infallibility in scripture." From there I explained that we have to interpret scripture. Not that there is a problem with infallibility. ;)

My bad. :p

And the Catholic Church do not require infallibility in interpretation; they assert that ex cathedra is infallible. Not that the understanding of the laymen, priests, bishops, or even cardinals is. Sorry, Protestant misconception.

I am fairly convinced, if you do not understand how they apply the ideas of authority and infallibility, you drastically misunderstand the catholic church.

Their principals of interpretation are followed consistently; not all of their practice is true doctrine, no Catholic I know would say that. The inferences from the catechisms are not themselves required to be inerrant as the catechism itself is. It's very simple. They do not have a logical contradiction in their practice, or the rational behind that.

Notably, they say the same things about us! The reason they say this tho, is because they do not understand how, given that understanding comes through the spirit, the spirit can move through the bible. They believe the spirit is ministered by its servants, not it text. This is the root of understanding in both churches.

The fact that both churches are saying the same things about eachother demonstrates a simple fact. Rather than trying to catch a world you have not studied as a member in a logical contradiction, one should endeavor to understand that from the perspective of its believers. If then there are signs of sin or rational error, logical evisceration should take place.

I think you will find very few things are actually irrational once you do this.

That said, the essence of Catholic Church authority is not that the interpretations at all levels is inerrant; it's that he interpretation at all levels is done by the ministry of the spirit through that spirits servants

(notably, as it was done in Act, where understanding came through the clergy to the people, not the bible to the people. Their scriptural basis for their view is stronger than ours.)

The most disturbing part of what you've said, is that you.... wait... did you really imply that disagreement implies an issue with sanctification???? Hmm, probably an issue for another blog post. I may have just misunderstood. That IS disturbing to me. But not what i meant to bring up.

Anyway, the most disturbing part of what you're saying is that you claim that the Roman Catholic Doctrine is not salvific. I wonder, what does it lack that it is a false doctrine?

Ah.. I see, you don't believe in role of Grace. Salvation is an issue of legality for you. You should read Romans. ;)

Given that salvation, as the Bible says, is by Grace in response to faith; what then do the Catholics lack that makes them damned?

Sorry, those were my thoughts as they occurred! Hope you enjoy!

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello David,

And the Catholic Church do not require infallibility in interpretation; they assert that ex cathedra is infallible. Not that the understanding of the laymen, priests, bishops, or even cardinals is. Sorry, Protestant misconception.

Response: I never said any individual was a infallible interpreter apart from a ex cathedra from the Pope. But the magistrum acts as the infallible interpreter.

I am fairly convinced, if you do not understand how they apply the ideas of authority and infallibility, you drastically misunderstand the catholic church.

Response: The fact of the matter is that Catholic bishops from Catholic apologist use this argument. This argument may not be used by the catholic church officially but then again I never said it was, I just mentioned the fact that individual Catholics happen to use this principle to argue against Protestants.

Their principals of interpretation are followed consistently; not all of their practice is true doctrine, no Catholic I know would say that. The inferences from the catechisms are not themselves required to be inerrant as the catechism itself is. It's very simple. They do not have a logical contradiction in their practice, or the rational behind that.

Response: The ones that make these arguments clearly are not consistent which is all I have been claiming.

I think you will find very few things are actually irrational once you do this.

Response: I find many things irrational about the Catholic church like their view of the Canon, so I do not know about that. And I still have not seen any good reason for rejecting the argument I made against individual Catholic Bishops and apologist that use this form of argumentation.

(notably, as it was done in Act, where understanding came through the clergy to the people, not the bible to the people. Their scriptural basis for their view is stronger than ours.)

Response: I would say that fact in scripture is perfectly compatible with my view of Sola Scriptura and that of the Reformers. Sola scriptura is a normative principle for the church today, not for the church in the first century. And their view of revelation and how it relates to the church is anything but biblical (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Tom. 3:16-17).

The most disturbing part of what you've said, is that you.... wait... did you really imply that disagreement implies an issue with sanctification???? Hmm, probably an issue for another blog post. I may have just misunderstood. That IS disturbing to me. But not what i meant to bring up.

Response: I did suggest that.

Anyway, the most disturbing part of what you're saying is that you claim that the Roman Catholic Doctrine is not salvific. I wonder, what does it lack that it is a false doctrine?

Response: They reject the Gospel of justification by faith alone (Rom. 1:16-17) and apparently the Bible seems to suggest that those who do so will not be saved (Rom. 9:30-33; Gal. 1:8-9)

Ah.. I see, you don't believe in role of Grace. Salvation is an issue of legality for you. You should read Romans. ;)

Response: I do believe in Grace, I have many times...I have read it Greek and have taken a class on it.

Given that salvation, as the Bible says, is by Grace in response to faith; what then do the Catholics lack that makes them damned?

Response: They lack the Gospel. Salvation is by the sole instrument of faith which is sufficiently caused by Grace, but those who have been justified by faith will have fruits and those fruits will never be as bad as to reject the Gospel.

God Bless,

NPT

Stacey said...

I've heard this argument against the need for an infallible interpreter before. On some level, of course, it makes sense, but only in the realm of theoretical thought games. Practically, there's a very big difference with respect to major issues. The Bible is unclear to many earnest Christians on whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation. There is debate on whether Acts 2:28 means baptism really does forgive sins and so is necessary, or whether John 3:16 guarantees belief is all that is necessary, or whether it means only that if you believe you will be baptized so of course you'll be saved, etc. You get the idea. As a result, there are many Protestant denominations with differing views on this issue. The same goes for teachings on homosexuality, abortion, the relationship of Christ with respect to the Father, whether grace is transmitted by physical things, whether the Real Presence of Christ is in the Eucharist (a few examples, there are many other issues). Of course, in the end it is up to the individual to prescribe to the teachings of the Church, but at least there's only one official teaching on these main issues.

As a Protestant you may be looking at infallibility backwards, the way I used to. The issue doesn't begin with a need to infallibly interpret every Bible verse that comes along and then you look to the Magesterium. The street goes the other direction. If the Magesterium has a teaching or clarification on an ambiguous or disputed passage of Scripture, you may ask "How can I trust this teaching?" And the answer is, God has promised His visible Church will not perish and the Holy Spirit will guide it in all truth, and that it will be the pillar and foundation of truth for all Christians... in essence, God gives his guarantee of infallibility on the Church's teachings such that it will not fall and we can trust it. It's really up to you to trust that God is more powerful than the sinful members of His Church.

Oh, and I didn't realize the word "alone" was in Rom 1:16-17. However, I did realize that "not alone" was in James 2:24

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Stacy,

You said: I've heard this argument against the need for an infallible interpreter before. On some level, of course, it makes sense, but only in the realm of theoretical thought games.

Response: So basically you do not have an argument against what I said, but you just waved it off and say it’s a theoretical thought game. Well how would you like if I just waved off everything you said as theoretical thought game that does not deserve an answer or argument. I am sorry that is not debate nor is that rational.

You Said: Practically, there's a very big difference with respect to major issues. The Bible is unclear to many earnest Christians on whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation. There is debate on whether Acts 2:28 means baptism really does forgive sins and so is necessary, or whether John 3:16 guarantees belief is all that is necessary, or whether it means only that if you believe you will be baptized so of course you'll be saved, etc. You get the idea.

Response: I do not get the idea. The Bible is perfectly clear about salvation:

Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Romans 3:28 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Given these verses what reason would we ever have for thinking that there would be more to be added to faith to save us in John 3:16?

And it is Acts 2:38 that you are probably referring to. The Greek word “eis” does necessarily imply that baptism is a condition of salvation but rather it could merely entail that baptism is related to or concerns the forgiveness of sins. Given the clear statements on salvation above there would be an additional reason for never translating it in a way that implies that salvation is conditioned by baptism. There are also debates about the Divinity of Jesus and about the Trinity but that does not mean that the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Triunity of our God is somehow unclear in the word of God. There are debates about everything, but that does not mean that the truth is unclear that just means people are sinful (Rom. 3:4-17).

You Said: As a result, there are many Protestant denominations with differing views on this issue. The same goes for teachings on homosexuality, abortion, the relationship of Christ with respect to the Father, whether grace is transmitted by physical things, whether the Real Presence of Christ is in the Eucharist (a few examples, there are many other issues). Of course, in the end it is up to the individual to prescribe to the teachings of the Church, but at least there's only one official teaching on these main issues.

Response: There are also debates and even Catholic denominations as well in the Catholic tradition. There are debates about the Bible in the Catholic tradition: is the partim-partim view correct or the material sufficiency view correct? Does the Catholic Church teach that Protestants burn in hell (Trent) or that they are merely separated Brethren (Vatican 2)? There are Catholic sects that reject all Popes past the council of Trent. I have actually found in my discussions with Catholics more confusion than in my discussion with Protestants. There is not unity among Catholics on anything. The Church does have its teaching that is interpreted different ways. In the same way the we have the Bible that is interpreted various ways.

Nathanael Taylor said...

You Said: As a Protestant you may be looking at infallibility backwards, the way I used to. The issue doesn't begin with a need to infallibly interpret every Bible verse that comes along and then you look to the Magesterium. The street goes the other direction. If the Magesterium has a teaching or clarification on an ambiguous or disputed passage of Scripture, you may ask "How can I trust this teaching?"

Response: Why Trust the Magesterium? Why not the Watch Tower or the Eastern Orthodox Church? Why would we Trust the Magesteriums interpretation on anything when it cannot even understand the clear doctrine of justification properly?

You Said: And the answer is, God has promised His visible Church will not perish and the Holy Spirit will guide it in all truth, and that it will be the pillar and foundation of truth for all Christians... in essence, God gives his guarantee of infallibility on the Church's teachings such that it will not fall and we can trust it. It's really up to you to trust that God is more powerful than the sinful members of His Church.

Response: God did not promise an infallible church. He did promise a church and he promised us that he would give us his word through his apostles through the pages of scripture. You are just merely assuming your point of view without even proving it.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Oh, and I didn't realize the word "alone" was in Rom 1:16-17. However, I did realize that "not alone" was in James 2:24

Response: If you would have continued reading Paul’s argument in Romans you would find that he does teach justification by faith alone before God.

James is talking about justification before men (James 2:14, 20) which Protestants agree is by works and not by faith alone. This is evident by phrases like “you foolish man” and “brothers” in James 2:14 and verse 20.

Romans is talking about justification before God and this evident when these phrases are used:

Romans 3:19-20 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held *accountable to God*. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in *his sight*, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 4:2 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not *before God*.

And Romans Clearly says that we are justified by faith apart from any works we do and that God justifies the ungodly (clearly the ungodly lack any good works)

Romans 3:28 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Romans 4:5 5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Thus, in the Protestant conception justification before men is by works and not by faith alone and justification before God is by faith alone.

God Bless,

NPT

Stacey said...

Nathanael,

Thanks for answering in such detail.

I must've given you the wrong impression. I'm not really attempting to debate you on these issues, but have a "a charitable and winsome dialog" educational to both sides. Since by your argument it seemed to me you misunderstood the use of an infallible Magesterium, I was trying to explain it. Since the infallibility is more related to being able to trust the clarifications and teachings, rather than "needing" a clarification on every little verse, your argument then to me seems irrelevant. Of course, we are all fallible and must do our best to understand the Word of God and teachings of the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit, and usually imperfectly understand them. However, with the guarantee of infallibility, we also do our best to understand Scripture in light of these teachings, and the teachings in light of Scripture, without fear or suspicion, guaranteed that they are harmonious... and they are.

There is not unity among Catholics on anything.
There is debate on many issues, but there is unity of doctrines taught in the catechism. Surely you can see that. If people dissent from the teachings, it doesn't make the teachings any less unified worldwide. For those who adhere to Church teachings, there is unity in belief of the Real Presence, in the necessity of baptism for salvation, in the real grace available through the sacraments... there's unity on all the points of the creed, professed and believed by all faithful Catholics. Please don't waste time throwing in the unfaithful followers of any religion to the mix, and I'll do the same for your side.

If you would have continued reading Paul’s argument in Romans you would find that he does teach justification by faith alone before God.

I've read Romans many times recently trying to understand how Reformed Protestants could read it differently than I do. But I'm sorry, I don't see the same "clear teaching on justification" in the Bible that you do.

Thank you, however, for explaining the "God's perspective" and "man's perspective" thing regarding works and faith. I've heard it before, but nobody has explained how it could be gleaned from the words of the Bible alone. Question for you, if you don't mind answering: What does this two perspectives thing mean? Doesn't that just look the same from people's perspective as Catholic doctrine, which says saved by faith that bears fruit in love, justified and justified still, and yes the fruit that we bear in love matters? If our faith is the only thing that justifies us before God, and yet in our perspective our works do as well... then how does that change anything?

Another thing... There are debates about everything, but that does not mean that the truth is unclear that just means people are sinful (Rom. 3:4-17).

How, then, is a person like me (let's forget the whole Tradition, Magesterium thing right now) who reads the same Bible as you, and sees different things in it, to know what is right? If the Holy Spirit leads us in all truth, all individually, from reading the Scriptures alone, then what are we to do when people disagree? Are we to base who is right on who can debate better? But debate is a skill separate from the gift of truth in the Holy Spirit... Are we to base it on who is more "holy" an individual, and thus closer to the truth as led by the Spirit? Then, doesn't that make our knowledge of God's truth dependent on our own state of holiness? I think that's wrong. But if it is so, how are we to tell who is more holy, since so many people are deceivers? Should I find a church who reads the Bible like me and just not worry that your church over there reads it differently? Why should I trust anyone else's judgment over my own? I think I would probably take nobody else's word for it in the end, read the Bible myself, and believe nothing but what sounds good to me... What do Reformed Christians have to say about such things?

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Stacey,

I must've given you the wrong impression. I'm not really attempting to debate you on these issues, but have a "a charitable and winsome dialog" educational to both sides. Since by your argument it seemed to me you misunderstood the use of an infallible Magesterium, I was trying to explain it. Since the infallibility is more related to being able to trust the clarifications and teachings, rather than "needing" a clarification on every little verse, your argument then to me seems irrelevant. Of course, we are all fallible and must do our best to understand the Word of God and teachings of the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit, and usually imperfectly understand them. However, with the guarantee of infallibility, we also do our best to understand Scripture in light of these teachings, and the teachings in light of Scripture, without fear or suspicion, guaranteed that they are harmonious... and they are.

Response: Well my argument was simply addressing a common argument that I have even heard from priests so clearly this misunderstanding I have of the magerterium comes from Catholics who use this argument on a regular basis. In this post I was simply addressing this argument that is very popular, that even priests and catholic apologist use. Of course I would doubt your last statement that they harmonious given my clear exposition on the doctrine of justification that demonstrated that justification is by faith alone.

There is not unity among Catholics on anything.
There is debate on many issues, but there is unity of doctrines taught in the catechism. Surely you can see that. If people dissent from the teachings, it doesn't make the teachings any less unified worldwide. For those who adhere to Church teachings, there is unity in belief of the Real Presence, in the necessity of baptism for salvation, in the real grace available through the sacraments... there's unity on all the points of the creed, professed and believed by all faithful Catholics. Please don't waste time throwing in the unfaithful followers of any religion to the mix, and I'll do the same for your side.

Response: I would say there are debates on many issues of the Bible, but there is unity of doctrine taught in the Bible. If people dissent from the biblical teachings any less unified. By the way all those things you mentioned toward the end that Catholics agree on I have heard an equal amount of Catholics even disagree on those issues.

If you would have continued reading Paul’s argument in Romans you would find that he does teach justification by faith alone before God.

I've read Romans many times recently trying to understand how Reformed Protestants could read it differently than I do. But I'm sorry, I don't see the same "clear teaching on justification" in the Bible that you do.

Response: Why not? What is so unclear about it? Justification by faith apart from works of law seems pretty clear to me. We are saved by faith and grace and not of works so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-10) this is all pretty clear, how is it not?

Nathanael Taylor said...

Thank you, however, for explaining the "God's perspective" and "man's perspective" thing regarding works and faith. I've heard it before, but nobody has explained how it could be gleaned from the words of the Bible alone.

Response: In The Bible Romans sets up the context of justification as in reference to “before God” and “his sight”. On the other hand, James is clearly talking to people about how they know their faith in genuine. This is evident by the fact that he is talking to “brothers” and a “man” during his discussion and there is no mention of God of being before God at all.

Question for you, if you don't mind answering: What does this two perspectives thing mean? Doesn't that just look the same from people's perspective as Catholic doctrine, which says saved by faith that bears fruit in love, justified and justified still, and yes the fruit that we bear in love matters? If our faith is the only thing that justifies us before God, and yet in our perspective our works do as well... then how does that change anything?

Response: Well there is no need for purgatory first off because Christ has taken away all of all our sin. The moment you are justified is the moment God knows you have true faith in his Son prior to you demonstrating your faith before men. Faith justifies you before God rather than any one of your works contributing to your justification. Both Catholics and Protestants agree that there is faith and works in the Christian life the disagreement is over the actual function of those works. The Protestant says the only thing that makes you justified before God is your faith and works do not contribute to your justification whatsoever. Whereas Catholics say that works add to your justification and in many ways keeps you justified. Hence in Catholicism you could perform a mortal sin that would cause you to forfeit your justification and hence justification is conditional on ones works.

The two perspectives thing can be best explained like this: I know that someone is saved by the works they do because believers of necessity will produce works if they have been truly justified by faith. Thus, before me I know they are right because of there works because I cannot see that there faith is real the way God can. This is justification before men. God, on the other hand, can see their faith when they first have it prior to any works and justified or makes them righteous on the basis of the faith that God has given them. This is the distinction that Protestants typically makes and Luke Timothy Johnson a Roman Catholic scholar agrees with this exegetical assessment.

Protestants say our works matter as fruit of the Spirit but they do not add to our justification. But the faith that justifies does not justify us by virtue of it producing love, but just in virtue of the faith which is prior to any works.

Nathanael Taylor said...

How, then, is a person like me (let's forget the whole Tradition, Magesterium thing right now) who reads the same Bible as you, and sees different things in it, to know what is right?

Response: I would say be reason and argument and by reading the Bible and following interpretive rules. This is what you had to do presumably when you became a Catholic you had to determine that church was the infallible and authoritative church over the Eastern Orthodox Church, the watch tower, and the latter day saints (all infallible churches by the way, as they claim). In order to be a Catholic you have to make a decision and use your mind to determine that this is the correct church.


If the Holy Spirit leads us in all truth, all individually, from reading the Scriptures alone, then what are we to do when people disagree? Are we to base who is right on who can debate better?

Response: I would say that people disagree because of sin and unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) so for people who reject the Gospel yet say they affirm the Bible I would say these persons are in that category. This is something that Paul even warns about in the early church (Acts 20:29-31). I would say we base who is right on what is more reasonable like everything else in life.

But debate is a skill separate from the gift of truth in the Holy Spirit... Are we to base it on who is more "holy" an individual, and thus closer to the truth as led by the Spirit?
Then, doesn't that make our knowledge of God's truth dependent on our own state of holiness? I think that's wrong. But if it is so, how are we to tell who is more holy, since so many people are deceivers?

Response: I would say the Holy Spirit is reasonable and compatible with reason so I would say the Holy Spirit would want us to go with what is more reasonable. We should expose deceivers by reasoning with them from the scriptures.


Should I find a church who reads the Bible like me and just not worry that your church over there reads it differently?

Response: We should be aware of false teaching and have reasons for not holding it. And we should defend the Gospel and give reasons for why the person who disagrees is not following the object hermeneutical skills of interpretation.

Why should I trust anyone else's judgment over my own? I think I would probably take nobody else's word for it in the end, read the Bible myself, and believe nothing but what sounds good to me... What do Reformed Christians have to say about such things?

Response: Well your judgments lead you to the Catholic Church so you obviously trusted it when it leads you there. As a Reformed Christian I would encourage people to read the Bible for what it is without putting in foreign concepts and that way we have a stronger reason to trust what we come up with.

God Bless,

NPT

Stacey said...

Hi Nathanael,

By the way all those things you mentioned toward the end that Catholics agree on I have heard an equal amount of Catholics even disagree on those issues.

I don't really want to waste either of our time talking about people who pick and choose beliefs from any given religion. I'd like to restrict the conversation to faithful followers. And all faithful followers do believe in the declarations of the creed, the Real Presence, etc.

Why not? What is so unclear about it? Justification by faith apart from works of law seems pretty clear to me. We are saved by faith and grace and not of works so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-10) this is all pretty clear, how is it not?

"works of the law" is the old law, fulfilled by Christ. It doesn't mean we don't have to do anything whatsoever. And all that we do is by faith through grace, but it matters that we do it. No one can boast in what they do, since it is only by cooperation with God's grace that they do it. You like Cyril of Jerusalem, right? What he says about Abraham:

"He was justified not only by works, but also by faith : for though he did many things well, yet he was never called the friend of God , except when he believed. Moreover, his every work was performed in faith."

Do you see how both views are consistent with the Bible, but lead to different doctrines, all based on different interpretation? His catechetical lectures are really great, by the way. I can recommend them for a good understanding of the beliefs of the early Church.

Whereas Catholics say that works add to your justification and in many ways keeps you justified. Hence in Catholicism you could perform a mortal sin that would cause you to forfeit your justification and hence justification is conditional on ones works.

Because at all points in our lives we are able to resist God's grace (since we have free will and some fall away from faith), and His grace is sufficient for us to resist mortal sins. It's not conditional on works, but our cooperation with His grace, such that free will remains intact but His grace is entirely necessary.

I would say be reason and argument and by reading the Bible and following interpretive rules.

So how are you to know what are the correct "interpretive rules"? Of course I believe that the men who wrote the Bible also taught others and told them exactly what they meant, not that the Bible is incomplete but that it is better understood with a teacher led by the Holy Spirit, one who talks and walks that is ;)

Stacey said...

I would say that people disagree because of sin and unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) so for people who reject the Gospel yet say they affirm the Bible I would say these persons are in that category.

I know people disagree because of sin, but I'm trying to figure out what method you advise for determining who is right and who is wrong. Let me see if I understand you. Are you saying that "people who reject the Gospel" are people who disagree with you, but since they affirm the Bible with a different interpretation than you, they are obviously not saved? So from an outsider's perspective, it seems like you're first assuming you're right and then choosing the correct "hermeneutic" based on that, and dismissing others by saying they're wrong because they disagree with what you have first assumed to be right. Is there another objective way to determine the correct "hermeneutical skill of interpretation"?

We should be aware of false teaching and have reasons for not holding it. And we should defend the Gospel and give reasons for why the person who disagrees is not following the object hermeneutical skills of interpretation.

I'm glad you include reasonability in your decision making, but I believe having a self-consistent system itself is insufficient to prove its truth. It is necessary for truth, but not sufficient. We also need to have ways of recognizing truth and distinguishing it from falsehoods, however reasonable those falsehoods may be. The Bible tells us to spot false teachings by recognizing new teachings (1 John 2:24, Gal 1:8), ones that aren't Biblical but also ones that may seem Biblical but haven't been around since the Apostles founded and taught their churches God's truth that Christ revealed to them. If it is not Apostolic Faith, then it is new and heresy, a false gospel. That is the importance of Tradition, it distinguishes false teachings from Apostolic ones by knowing what has been taught since the beginning. Of course, the Bible contains the God breathed Apostolic Faith, but there are many who can support their beliefs from the Bible and explain away apparently contradictory verses with a "correct hermeneutic". It remains then, for us to argue over who has the Apostolic Faith.

Would you mind telling me why you believe that God doesn't and hasn't (of course, you must believe He is able) led the Catholic Church, the only Christian church that still exists since Christ and has taught the same gospel for 2000 years. Is it just because they don't teach the interpretation of the Bible that you have been taught? Or is it because you think God wouldn't guide a visible Church in all truth, or would allow sinful men to derail His message of salvation for 1500 years?

I know it's a bit off subject, so if you'd rather not continue the discussion in this direction, I understand. I'm willing to switch off to email as well if you like.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Stacey,

"works of the law" is the old law, fulfilled by Christ. It doesn't mean we don't have to do anything whatsoever. And all that we do is by faith through grace, but it matters that we do it. No one can boast in what they do, since it is only by cooperation with God's grace that they do it. You like Cyril of Jerusalem, right? What he says about Abraham:
"He was justified not only by works, but also by faith : for though he did many things well, yet he was never called the friend of God , except when he believed. Moreover, his every work was performed in faith."
Do you see how both views are consistent with the Bible, but lead to different doctrines, all based on different interpretation? His catechetical lectures are really great, by the way. I can recommend them for a good understanding of the beliefs of the early Church.

Response: Cyril of Jerusalem has no authority in determining this matter at all, only the Bible does, although I do believe his quote to be entirely compatible with sola fide. With that being said: Ephesians 2:8-10 does not use the expression works of law, but rather just works. Thus, that explanation there is going to be lacking. All are given the grace of God and the reason why some are in hell and others are not according to your view is because one person cooperated and the other did not. That is, there was something intrinsic in the person that is morally superior to the one who did not cooperate and thus there is room for boasting on your view. However, the phrase works of law is used in Romans 2-3. This phrase does not refer to the old law because currently people who do not have access to the Bible at all can know what is right or wrong independent of the old Mosaic Law and this is called works of law in Romans 2:15. Thus, it seems that works of law does not always mean the old law.

But with respect to your comment about Romans 3 and works of law here have been my arguments elsewhere against this line of thought:

Romans 3:27-31 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Now many objectors to justification by faith alone are quick to point out that they do not see the phrase “works of law” as all works in general and thus this cannot be an argument for sola fide so they say. But the problem is that Paul connects his thoughts in this context from the exclusion of boasting and if any works could contribute to our justification then we would have grounds for boasting, but clearly Paul here would rule out types of boasting and therefore we have good reason to think this is referring to all types of works.

Nathanael Taylor said...

An even stronger argument for “works of law” meaning all works in general is that it fits Paul's argument and context better than any non-Protestant interpretation. The part of Paul's argument that I am referring here to is 3:31 where Paul asks the rhetorical question about whether we even need to follow the law in the first place if Paul's understanding of justification were to be correct. Paul’s view of justification is such that it leads one to ask this rhetorical question: If we really are justified by faith alone then do we need to follow the law? Paul answers that just because we are justified by faith alone we still need to follow the law, but that the following the law does not justify us. The Sola Fide understanding of this text is the most preferable than the alternative for this reason. For if the Roman or Eastern understanding were being taught here then Paul would have no reason to anticipate this question because Paul could have always said “well you need to follow other works and other laws for justification”. And clearly this is lacking from his teaching on works and justification.

I think the most difficult part for your position that works of the law refer to the old law that Jesus fulfilled is that Paul says that we are to follow this law (Rom. 3:31), but if it is really the old law that Jesus fulfilled then clearly we would not need to follow it, but rather in Roman theology we would need to follow the “new law”. Since in Roman theology the new law is the only the law we ought to follow and not the old then since Paul says to follow these works of the Law in Romans 3:31 then to be consistent with your Roman view you ought to take these verses to be referring to the new law. Thus, when Paul say you are justified by faith apart from works of law to be consistent you are going to have to say that the referent of works of the law is the new law and not the old.

Another fundamental problem you had with your post is that your understanding of grace includes action or doing which Paul clearly teaches against:

In order to have a clear understanding of justification we have to have a biblical conception of Grace. This is Grace as Paul defines it:

Romans 11:6 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Works here are generalized and there is no reason in the context at all to limit these works to types of works rather than all works in general. Thus, we see that grace is such that it is incompatible with works. Another reason for thinking that grace excludes all works is Romans 6:1-2 because Paul could not ask this rhetorical question if the concept of grace were such that works could be mixed in with it:

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 4:16 tells us that the promise has to rest on faith because that is the only thing that is compatible with Grace. All this is really interesting, but how does it relate to the doctrine of justification? Well Paul makes it clear that we are justified by grace, which means not by works, but only faith:

Romans 3:23-24 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his *grace* as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Thus, justification is by grace and by the definition of grace: by faith alone.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Because at all points in our lives we are able to resist God's grace (since we have free will and some fall away from faith), and His grace is sufficient for us to resist mortal sins. It's not conditional on works, but our cooperation with His grace, such that free will remains intact but His grace is entirely necessary.

Response: There many biblical problems with what you state here:

With respect to losing our salvation:

The Bible clearly teaches in many places that you cannot lose your salvation:

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

All those who are drawn and come to God will be raised up on the last day. The term last day in the context of John 6 refers to the resurrection of glory (John 6:40). Which leads me to the next verse:

John 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

John 10:28-29 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

No one can snatch those who have salvation out of the Father's and the Son's hand.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Paul, the inspired apostle, here says that the believers who God has begun a good work in will in fact make it on the last day.

1 Corinthians 1:8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is saying that God will sustain believers until the end. Notice the word guiltless here. This is quite a stab at christian denominations and groups that say a believer can have guilt before God at any point.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Romans 8:28-30 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

All those who are justified are glorified. Justification in the context of Romans refers to a event in the when one first receives righteousness and hence salvation (Rom. 3:20-25; 4:1-13). Paul is saying here that those who receive justification will in fact be glorified on the last day and given the context we have no reason to think that this glorious chain of redemption can be broken. This is even more evident when one reads the proceeding context which stresses that nothing can seperate the elect or saved from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:31-39), which is another clear proof of the doctrine of perseverance of the saints.


With respect to free will and our cooperation:

I will give the four strongest biblical arguments for the Reformed/Calvinistic Doctrine of sufficient grace (or more popularly “irresistible grace”). This is the “I” in the Calvinistic acronym TULIP. To be clear, what I mean by sufficient grace is that when God acts on any agent for the purpose of bringing about faith, all that is needed is God’s causal activity and nothing else. In Short, God’s grace in scripture is more than necessary, it is sufficient for bringing about faith unto salvation.

Argument 1:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
-John 6:44
This passage is teaching that anyone who is drawn is raised up on the last day. Raised up refers to being raised up in glory rather than damnation because Jesus consistently uses the phrase “on the last day” in this way throughout the entire discourse (John 6:39-40). Moreover, the Greek word “helkuo” (or "draws") suggests sufficient causality because John uses it with regards to Peter dragging fish that he has caught (John 21:11) and John seems to use it this way consistently throughout his Gospel. All this to say: the causal deterministic interpretation of this verse seems more reasonable than not.

Argument 2:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you
-1 Peter 1: 3,4
These verses are fairly self-explanatory. Peter is saying here that our imperishable salvation was caused by God. Some may argue that only our being born again is what is caused in this passage, and that once we are born again we can still synergistically reject salvation. However, it is clear that Peter is saying that we were caused to be born again "to" an imperishable inheritance. This simple connecting word is important. Peter is directly connecting God's causation with everlasting life in heaven through our regeneration, or being born again. The two (regeneration and salvation) cannot be separated. Moreover, there is a lack of mention of libertarian human cooperation here. We should be wise as Paul was and we ought to go beyond the things that are written (1 Cor. 4:6).

Nathanael Taylor said...

Argument 3:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
-Ephesians 2: 8,9

Believe it or not this is one of the strongest forms of positive argumentation for causal determination in salvation from scripture, but it involves a little understanding of Greek to flush this out. The Greek word for “this” which in Greek is “touto” is neuter, so it refers to the entire statement: “For by grace you have been saved through faith”. In Ephesians 2:8 when it says “this (or “touto”) is not your own doing", it is referring to the entire statement which includes both the grace and the faith. This is because the words "grace" and "faith" in the Greek are in the feminine gender. The only way that one could ever argue that "this" is referring to one or the other (either grace or faith, rather than both) is if "this" was also in the feminine. But as the statement stands neither grace nor faith agree in gender with "this", so it must be referring to the statement as a whole.

In light of these exegetical considerations the argument for this passage leading to causal determinism in salvation would go something like this:

P1: Either agents are causally determined or they are libertarianly free with respect to salvation

P2: If faith and grace are not of you but of God then agents are not libertarianly free with respect to salvation

P3: Grace and Faith are jointly sufficient conditions for salvation

P4: Grace and Faith are not of you

CP5: Therefore, agents are not libertarianly free with respect to salvation (P2, P4)

C: Therefore, agents are causally determined with respect to salvation (P1, CP5).

Argument 4:
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
-2 Corinthains 4: 6,7

This verse is drawing an analogy between light shining in darkness as God giving us personal saving knowledge of his Son Jesus Christ. Light shining in darkness is a causally sufficient event in nature and thus God giving us saving knowledge is causally sufficient upon us. The darkness cannot reject the light. Moreover, when Paul says that God said "let light shine out of darkness" this is clearly a reference to creation ex nihilo, which was a totally unilateral act of God. In the same way that God acted unilaterally and monergistically when He commanded light to be, so too He acts in the heart of the believer, according to Paul. Finally, the verse goes on to drive home this point by emphasizing that this treasure that we have shows God’s power and not ours, but if libertarian cooperation were to be true then it would be God’s power plus ours. However, this verse seems to negate this alternative possibility. Thus, the text seems to teach causal determination in salvation.

Nathanael Taylor said...

So how are you to know what are the correct "interpretive rules"? Of course I believe that the men who wrote the Bible also taught others and told them exactly what they meant, not that the Bible is incomplete but that it is better understood with a teacher led by the Holy Spirit, one who talks and walks that is ;)

Response: Asking this question is in a sense very ironic because you are interpreting what I am saying and using rules of inference in doing so. Thus, I am doing the very same thing when I read the Bible. But I would say one of the interpretive rules is that we have to read the verses that the author says in context with the rest of the book and with the Bible. We also have to use clear parts to help interpret the unclear parts. These are just two of many. The reason why I know these are correct: because in my experience and personal introspection on how to communicate I use my thoughts in context and I try to clarify myself over and over again to make things as clear as I can as to what I am saying so that no one can misinterpret me. In fact all human beings do so. I would not expect any less of Paul. Another reason why I know they are correct is that they are properly basic.

I know people disagree because of sin, but I'm trying to figure out what method you advise for determining who is right and who is wrong. Let me see if I understand you. Are you saying that "people who reject the Gospel" are people who disagree with you, but since they affirm the Bible with a different interpretation than you, they are obviously not saved? So from an outsider's perspective, it seems like you're first assuming you're right and then choosing the correct "hermeneutic" based on that, and dismissing others by saying they're wrong because they disagree with what you have first assumed to be right. Is there another objective way to determine the correct "hermeneutical skill of interpretation"?

Response: Yes, all of what you said above is correct. Your question at the end is a lot like asking is there another objective way to determine the correct method of mathematics so that 1+1=2 is no longer the case? Well, not that I know of. How we know we are interpreting people correctly is just properly basic and so when people disagree about obvious things that Paul says I just assume it to be sin because there are not really other good explanations for it. But let us suppose what you say is right for the sake of argument: Then you could not know what the Catholic Church is teaching because how do you know that your interpretation is better than any possible alternative ones? How do you know that you have the correct interpretive methods to interpret the Catholic Church the way that you do? If you say oh because they told me so, well you have to interpret them telling you so and so on. Thus, as I have said elsewhere it is just properly basic for us as Human beings to know the proper way on how to interpret someone else one need not devise a clever criterion and method we just simply know properly basic fashion.

Nathanael Taylor said...

I'm glad you include reasonability in your decision making, but I believe having a self-consistent system itself is insufficient to prove its truth. It is necessary for truth, but not sufficient. We also need to have ways of recognizing truth and distinguishing it from falsehoods, however reasonable those falsehoods may be. The Bible tells us to spot false teachings by recognizing new teachings (1 John 2:24, Gal 1:8), ones that aren't Biblical but also ones that may seem Biblical but haven't been around since the Apostles founded and taught their churches God's truth that Christ revealed to them. If it is not Apostolic Faith, then it is new and heresy, a false gospel. That is the importance of Tradition, it distinguishes false teachings from Apostolic ones by knowing what has been taught since the beginning. Of course, the Bible contains the God breathed Apostolic Faith, but there are many who can support their beliefs from the Bible and explain away apparently contradictory verses with a "correct hermeneutic". It remains then, for us to argue over who has the Apostolic Faith.

Response: Your counter example to reason being a sufficient condition for choosing one view point over another seems to be failure because it tacitly assumes my view to begin with. Your counter example is that we have to be aware of new heretic teachings that are against the Bible according to what the Bible has to say. Now of course I would agree and I would say that it is a reasonable thing to do because I have sufficient reason to believing in the Bible and me believing the Bible entails that I ought to be wary of new heretical view points. Thus, reason is working here the whole time because I have reason to believe the Bible and if the Bible tells me something then to be reasonable I have to be consistent with whatever it says because I have good evidence for it and thus it is a mater of coherence. The entire time reason is working as a sufficient condition for my belief structure.

Would you mind telling me why you believe that God doesn't and hasn't (of course, you must believe He is able) led the Catholic Church, the only Christian church that still exists since Christ and has taught the same gospel for 2000 years. Is it just because they don't teach the interpretation of the Bible that you have been taught? Or is it because you think God wouldn't guide a visible Church in all truth, or would allow sinful men to derail His message of salvation for 1500 years?

Response: Well first off your claim that it has been the only Christian church that still exists is disputable especially among the Eastern Orthodox Church. But the reason why I do not believe it is for three reasons: 1) they reject the Gospel of Justification by faith alone, 2) They reject the sufficiency of Grace 3) the Bible does not teach that there will be an infallible visible church.

God Bless,

NPT

Stacey said...

Hi Nathanael,

Thank you for your detailed reply. By taking time to answer my questions, you have shown me more of the consistency in Calvinism. I hope I can also show you the consistency in Catholic interpretations. I'm sorry it does take me a while to find time to write a reply.

the reason why some are in hell and others are not according to your view is because one person cooperated and the other did not. That is, there was something intrinsic in the person that is morally superior to the one who did not cooperate and thus there is room for boasting on your view.

It is hard to understand, but even though we understand imperfectly in our human weakness, we must accept God revealed truth found in the Bible. The Catholic position affirms free will such that the command to love God makes sense, and yet there is no room for boasting since every good thing, even turning to God, is done by grace. We are saved by faith through grace, not saved by works since no person can just rack up credit for good deeds. Everything is of no avail without faith, yet what we do in that faith matters, and not just to "prove" salvation. Catholics don't believe you can earn heaven, yet they still place value in our actions.

If you continue to interact with me, you'll find I like to quote the Church Fathers, not because I think they carry any weight with you, but because they say things much better than I do and have helped my understanding of the Catholic Church. Although the men themselves hold no absolute authoritative sway, the beliefs of the early Church they attest to matter. From Augustine, the Catholic understanding of balancing grace and free will:

"Now for the commission of sin we get no help from God; but we are not able to do justly, and to fulfill the law of righteousness in every part thereof, except we are helped by God. For as the bodily eye is not helped by the light to turn away therefrom shut or averted, but is helped by it to see, and cannot see at all unless it help it; so God, who is the light of the inner man, helps our mental sight, in order that we may do some good, not according to our own, but according to His righteousness."
[Augustine, On the Merits and Remission of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Bk. 2, Ch. 5]

So Catholics believe that all that we do is by grace, even turning to and believing in God, yet we may of our own sinful nature turn from Him because God is not the author of evil. It is not that we merit our salvation, or anything that we do justifies us, or even that we are able to do good by ourselves. It is that we don't resist the work the God does in us. No one can boast in such things, but only give glory and thanks to God. I have written a more extensive post on this subject, in attempt to explain the balance between grace and free will as propounded by the Church Fathers, Trent, and the Catechism:

Paul's definition of "faith" in Romans is "total adherence in act and will to the will of God", and James is using the definition "belief alone". I would agree with "saved by faith alone" if Paul's definition of faith is used. The mere acts of following the law (whatever definition of law you like to choose) will never save us, and yet Paul puts value in trying to be good according to our conscience. Consider those who have never heard the name of Christ and yet follow the law and so are righteous. It would appear that they have the Pauline definition of faith without knowing the actual name of Christ, they may know Him through creation and the natural moral law. (Romans 2:5-16)

Stacey said...

Let me try to clear up my idea of grace: it is something granted to us as a gift by God, infused in us, such that we may become more like Christ, and so able to do God's will. Kind of like saying a woman is graceful, it is a quality that is in her. The Reformed conception of grace as I understand it is more like having God's favor, instead of a quality. (The difference better explained here) The idea of grace that I gave is consistent with Romans 11:6 since if our salvation is by grace, it is from God, and we do not ever earn it ourselves by the work we do. Semantics change the way you and I read the Bible, and knowing how each other define words will help us understand each other. However, "Definition involves a mental effort and therefore repels" - Hilaire Belloc ;)

My understanding of John 6:44 comes through Augustine:

"Since, then, with the heart man believes in Christ, which no man assuredly does against his will, and since he that is drawn seems to be as if forced against his will, how are we to solve this question, "No man comes unto me, except the Father that sent me draw him"?... If he is drawn, says some one, he comes unwillingly. If he comes unwillingly, then he believes not; but if he believes not, neither does he come... Do not think that you are drawn against your will. The mind is drawn also by love. Nor ought we to be afraid, lest perchance we be censured in regard to this evangelic word of the Holy Scriptures by men who weigh words, but are far removed from things, most of all from divine things;... you are drawn even by delight. What is it to be drawn by delight? "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." ... how much more boldly ought we to say that a man is drawn to Christ when he delights in the truth, when he delights in blessedness, delights in righteousness, delights in everlasting life, all which Christ is?"

The Catholic perspective is consistent with God sustaining us to the end, and that we will be guiltless in the day of Our Lord. This doesn't imply that all who have ever had faith in God will continue in it, just that all who persevere in faith so that they will be saved are sustained by God and guiltless in the end.

In Thomas Aquinas's commentary on Romans, he lists different possible interpretations of passages in Romans and chooses between them by reasoning from what the Bible reveals to us about God. If you would like to better understand how the Catholic perspective is built upon the solid foundation of Scripture, I would recommend it.

On page 340, Aquinas begins his exegesis of Romans 8:28-30. He explains that predestination is to be understood: "Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son. Then this conformity is not the reason for predestination, but its terminus or effect." so we have not earned eternal life of our own merits. Predestination is understood as the eternal plan of God. Because in all knowledge, God knows who will choose to serve Him and who will not, though it is by His power that they do, and He has created us for the purpose (predestined us) that those who choose Him will be conformed to the image of His Son. Not caused by our choosing, but nonetheless a free choice. If you'd like it better explained, please read the referenced pages.

Stacey said...

On page 359, Aquinas explains how we understand that nothing can separate us from the love of God, yet we are uncertain of our salvation (see Mat 24:13, Rom 2:7,11:22, Phil 3:12-14, 1 Cor 9:27). He says "if a person can fall away from love, it is not on account of a shortcoming in this virtue, but on account of a defect in one's free choice." On page 378, he discusses the conundrum in Romans 9 pertaining to affirmation of the necessity of God's grace in all things, and yet preserving free will, without which nothing would make sense. The solution is on page 384 and 385. He tells us that even our free will is a gracious gift of God.

Aquinas gives ample Biblical proof for these things, and I easily accept them since I must reason that both God's grace be first in all things and that we must have free choice. Love can only exist as a free gift to another, and we cannot love God, the greatest commandment, lest it is a free gift. But we know that we can do nothing without Him. The Catholic gospel is faithful to the whole of the Bible, and admits both necessities. A definition of predestination that denies free will also denies other parts of the Bible.

Concerning irresistible grace, please be clear with what definition of "grace" you are using. I have already told you the Catholic view of John 6:44, completely consistent with Scripture.

1 Peter 1:3-4 is speaking of an imperishable inheritance, that will be imperishable once you come into that inheritance. It also speaks of "hope", which means unattained, so it is possible to lose it.

With respect to your "Argument 3": I disagree with P2. Faith and grace are both gifts of God, not of us, but able to be rejected by us, so we are free to choose them or not, but not of our own power.

Argument 4 is sufficiently answered from a Catholic perspective by the Augustine quote above. We may shut our eye to the light and so not see, yet we cannot see without its help.

You say: "when people disagree about obvious things that Paul says I just assume it to be sin because there are not really other good explanations for it."

A different good explanation is that you are wrong in your interpretation of those "obvious" things, and yet have a set of unprovable excuses that keep you from changing your mind, such as anyone who disagrees with you is "obviously" unsaved.

I suppose that if you believe in Calvinistic predestination such that free will in our love for the truth has nothing to do with being drawn to God, it wouldn't bother you that we can't "find" God ourselves by just reading the Bible, since you have to have already accepted the gospel to read it "correctly". (So do you believe regeneration precedes faith?) Yet, it's a very self-contained little matrix the you believe in. Unprovable and unreachable by anyone on the outside, believed for self-consistency, with nothing else to recommend it. I can't prove we don't all live in a matrix, hooked up to machines and reality is merely virtual. But I can't accept belief in such a thing just because it is theoretically possible. God is too purposeful to make everything unknowable and unreasonable philosophically.

Stacey said...

When I say reason by itself is insufficient, I mean that self-consistency in what you say is necessary but insufficient. You agree with the Bible, yes, and your view is self-consistent and debatably consistent with the Bible, but it is not consistent with or demonstrable from history, tradition, and philosophy. You can talk yourself into this gospel you believe to be the truth because of its intellectual rigor, yet there is little else to recommend it, while all things should be taken into account in pursuit of the truth. Of course, all these things are reasonable, that is not what I mean by "reason", I mean "logically self-consistent".

Furthermore, it is unBiblical to think that you must first accept the gospel to understand it from the Bible. They gospel was preached and explained, heard and understood and then accepted.

Your problem with infallible interpretation is very unpractical. If the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is wrong, you can't really "interpret" that in a lot of different ways. The Bible says murder is wrong, but some people believe abortion isn't murder. The Catholic Church's teachings can clarify what is in the Bible. I find it frustrating that you insist on reducing this to a thought experiment in which all statements may be misinterpreted equally, because this is a false assumption.

Finally,
1) Catholics reject the gospel of belief alone because it is unbiblical
2) they believe in the sufficiency and necessity of grace, but not the irresistibility of it
3) the Bible does teach an indestructible (and therefore "infallible in doctrine") and visible Church. Would you like the supporting evidence?

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Stacey,

Thank you for your detailed reply. By taking time to answer my questions, you have shown me more of the consistency in Calvinism. I hope I can also show you the consistency in Catholic interpretations. I'm sorry it does take me a while to find time to write a reply.

Response: Thank you for your time. I hope we can continue to have a rational dialogue.

It is hard to understand, but even though we understand imperfectly in our human weakness, we must accept God revealed truth found in the Bible. The Catholic position affirms free will such that the command to love God makes sense, and yet there is no room for boasting since every good thing, even turning to God, is done by grace. We are saved by faith through grace, not saved by works since no person can just rack up credit for good deeds. Everything is of no avail without faith, yet what we do in that faith matters, and not just to "prove" salvation. Catholics don't believe you can earn heaven, yet they still place value in our actions.

Response: I am not so sure what was said here was actually a response that addresses the heart of the issue to what I said above. I know the work that is done is through faith and grace on the Catholic view point but the problem is that grace and faith are necessary and not sufficient for salvation. And not only that faith in your view is a virtue and something that is done out of your response to grace and the continued response through works. Thus, since it is necessary and not sufficient what makes it jointly sufficient is the agent or what is intrinsic to the person. Because it is the person’s response to grace and works in grace and faith that makes it sufficient you have room for boasting contrary to the teaching of Paul and the Gospel proclamation. The reason why one person is damned and the other is not is not a matter of grace since God’s grace is extended to all individuals, but rather it is intrinsic to the person and in reformed theology and in biblical theology it is extrinsic to the person. If you make anything concerning the basis of salvation intrinsic to the person then you have room for boasting and then your view is contrary to the Bible, if however you make it only extrinsic then you have rejected Rome and have become a Protestant. The logic here is pretty inescapable and nothing you have said above negates or softens what I have said here and before. Why would the command to love God not make sense if Reformed theology were true?



So Catholics believe that all that we do is by grace, even turning to and believing in God, yet we may of our own sinful nature turn from Him because God is not the author of evil. It is not that we merit our salvation, or anything that we do justifies us, or even that we are able to do good by ourselves. It is that we don't resist the work the God does in us. No one can boast in such things, but only give glory and thanks to God. I have written a more extensive post on this subject, in attempt to explain the balance between grace and free will as propounded by the Church Fathers, Trent, and the Catechism:

Response: Most of what is said here is sufficient responded to in my second response. Why think that this view of grace and salvation makes God the author of evil? If you would like a deterministic defense of the Problem of evil I would be glad to offer it and discuss it elsewhere:

http://reasonfromscripture.blogspot.com/search/label/Problem%20of%20Evil

But for now let’s stay on topic.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Paul's definition of "faith" in Romans is "total adherence in act and will to the will of God", and James is using the definition "belief alone". I would agree with "saved by faith alone" if Paul's definition of faith is used. The mere acts of following the law (whatever definition of law you like to choose) will never save us, and yet Paul puts value in trying to be good according to our conscience. Consider those who have never heard the name of Christ and yet follow the law and so are righteous. It would appear that they have the Pauline definition of faith without knowing the actual name of Christ, they may know Him through creation and the natural moral law. (Romans 2:5-16)

Response: Where does Paul define faith in this fashion? Faith as the Greek word pistis suggests means trust or belief. Moreover, the context of Roman does not allow for such a definition because word actions or works is contrasted with belief or trust. The problem with your understanding of Romans 2:5-16 is many. First Paul says elsewhere that those who where not involved in the Mosaic covenant prior to Christ had no hope of being saved (Eph. 2:12). Secondly, this work of the law that is written on the heart is said elsewhere that no one neither Jew or Gentile can keep this work of the law and be right before God (Rom. 3:9-20). Lastly, the Greek word for describing the Gentiles doing what the law requires is written is in the subjective rather than an indicative mood thereby suggesting this is hypothetical rather than actual statement of fact. And since we have good reason for affirming that no one can be saved by their works or apart from the covenant then we should let clearer scripture interpret and the imprecise and indeterminate scripture.

Let me try to clear up my idea of grace: it is something granted to us as a gift by God, infused in us, such that we may become more like Christ, and so able to do God's will. Kind of like saying a woman is graceful, it is a quality that is in her. The Reformed conception of grace as I understand it is more like having God's favor, instead of a quality. (The difference better explained here) The idea of grace that I gave is consistent with Romans 11:6 since if our salvation is by grace, it is from God, and we do not ever earn it ourselves by the work we do. Semantics change the way you and I read the Bible, and knowing how each other define words will help us understand each other. However, "Definition involves a mental effort and therefore repels" - Hilaire Belloc ;)

Response: The problem is the infused idea of grace is not found in the Greek word nor is it found in the Pauline usage. The reason why the Catholic understanding of Grace is flawed is because Pauls definition of grace in Romans 11:6 does not include works at all. The Grace you hold to involves our effort and cooperation with grace, but if is of grace it cannot be of works otherwise grace would no longer be grace. And you are right in saying that the reformed understanding is having favor and that favor is unmerited because that is simply what the Greek word means.

Nathanael Taylor said...

My understanding of John 6:44 comes through Augustine:

"Since, then, with the heart man believes in Christ, which no man assuredly does against his will, and since he that is drawn seems to be as if forced against his will, how are we to solve this question, "No man comes unto me, except the Father that sent me draw him"?... If he is drawn, says some one, he comes unwillingly. If he comes unwillingly, then he believes not; but if he believes not, neither does he come... Do not think that you are drawn against your will. The mind is drawn also by love. Nor ought we to be afraid, lest perchance we be censured in regard to this evangelic word of the Holy Scriptures by men who weigh words, but are far removed from things, most of all from divine things;... you are drawn even by delight. What is it to be drawn by delight? "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." ... how much more boldly ought we to say that a man is drawn to Christ when he delights in the truth, when he delights in blessedness, delights in righteousness, delights in everlasting life, all which Christ is?"

Response: This does not address my argument in the least. The text says that all the father draws will come to Jesus and that all that are drawn are raised on in glory. Now are you saying that not all are drawn? And that God does not want everyone saved? Because all that are drawn come and are raised up. The Greek word does suggests dragging so Augustine is simply wrong which is not surprising for a fellow who did not know Greek.

The Catholic perspective is consistent with God sustaining us to the end, and that we will be guiltless in the day of Our Lord. This doesn't imply that all who have ever had faith in God will continue in it, just that all who persevere in faith so that they will be saved are sustained by God and guiltless in the end.

Response: Why think that this is not referring to all Christians?

On page 340, Aquinas begins his exegesis of Romans 8:28-30. He explains that predestination is to be understood: "Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son. Then this conformity is not the reason for predestination, but its terminus or effect." so we have not earned eternal life of our own merits. Predestination is understood as the eternal plan of God. Because in all knowledge, God knows who will choose to serve Him and who will not, though it is by His power that they do, and He has created us for the purpose (predestined us) that those who choose Him will be conformed to the image of His Son. Not caused by our choosing, but nonetheless a free choice. If you'd like it better explained, please read the referenced pages.

Response: I understand his interpretation. The problem with it is that foreknew does not mean in the Greek a foreknowing of facts and propositions of who will believe or who will disbelieve and so on. Rather it simply an active verb suggesting loving persons beforehand and this is the Pauline usage in Romans (11:2) and in Greek words are defined by their context. This does not escape the simple fact that all that are justified are glorified thereby suggesting that one cannot lose their justification.

Nathanael Taylor said...

On page 359, Aquinas explains how we understand that nothing can separate us from the love of God, yet we are uncertain of our salvation (see Mat 24:13, Rom 2:7,11:22, Phil 3:12-14, 1 Cor 9:27). He says "if a person can fall away from love, it is not on account of a shortcoming in this virtue, but on account of a defect in one's free choice." On page 378, he discusses the conundrum in Romans 9 pertaining to affirmation of the necessity of God's grace in all things, and yet preserving free will, without which nothing would make sense. The solution is on page 384 and 385. He tells us that even our free will is a gracious gift of God.

Response: Well you are free to use any of his arguments here. So use the arguments that you cite please. With respect to be uncertain: This maybe true, but this simply means that once someone is justified and united to Christ he cannot be separated whether he knows it or not. And this is still contrary to the Roman Catholic position that one cannot lose his justification. Romans 8 is addressing a metaphysical state of affairs that once one is justified and united to Christ he cannot lose it, but it is not addressing an epistemological issue so Aquinas bringing up an epistemological issue has very little relevance on this passage. Protestants can agree that we might have some epistemological unclarity about our salvation, but Reformed Protestant have to hold that once someone is saved they are saved and they cannot lose it. The Catholic holds that you have epistemological uncertainity about your salvation and you could actually metaphysically lose it. Romans 8 defeats the latter but not the former thereby rendering the Catholic position unbiblical on this score.

Aquinas gives ample Biblical proof for these things, and I easily accept them since I must reason that both God's grace be first in all things and that we must have free choice. Love can only exist as a free gift to another, and we cannot love God, the greatest commandment, lest it is a free gift. But we know that we can do nothing without Him. The Catholic gospel is faithful to the whole of the Bible, and admits both necessities. A definition of predestination that denies free will also denies other parts of the Bible.

Response: Well this does not really respond or interact with any of the biblical arguments I gave. So saying so does not make it so.

Concerning irresistible grace, please be clear with what definition of "grace" you are using. I have already told you the Catholic view of John 6:44, completely consistent with Scripture.

Response: It is inconsistent as I have shown above.

1 Peter 1:3-4 is speaking of an imperishable inheritance, that will be imperishable once you come into that inheritance. It also speaks of "hope", which means unattained, so it is possible to lose it.

Response: The will be is not in the original Greek text nor is it in the English. Why think that hope entails unattained or possibility to lose it. The Greek word for hope does not entail that definition. It can mean an expectation or a confidence is something that will definitely happen.

Nathanael Taylor said...

With respect to your "Argument 3": I disagree with P2. Faith and grace are both gifts of God, not of us, but able to be rejected by us, so we are free to choose them or not, but not of our own power.

Response: If we are able to choose to have faith or not to have it that means it is up to us which the author negates in Ephesians 2:8-9, even if we have influences like grace. If grace is sufficient and efficient then we would not have a choice and it would not be up to us, which is what the passage teaches.

Argument 4 is sufficiently answered from a Catholic perspective by the Augustine quote above. We may shut our eye to the light and so not see, yet we cannot see without its help.

Response: The passage does not talk about our ability to shut or eyes nor does it even suggest it. So Augustine is wrong again. The passage does just the opposite it says this power is not in us to have knowledge of Christ, but it is in God. You believe it is in God and in man to cooperate freely which is not what the passage teaches.


A different good explanation is that you are wrong in your interpretation of those "obvious" things, and yet have a set of unprovable excuses that keep you from changing your mind, such as anyone who disagrees with you is "obviously" unsaved.

Response: Perhaps this conversation is making you emotional and increasingly hostile causing you to misrepresent me. I hope you can be clear headed and continue this dialogue rationally and calmly without misrepresenting me. I never said that anyone who disagrees with me is not saved I only said that those who reject the Gospel and the center heart of the Christian message are not saved and this is what Rome and the East does sadly.

I suppose that if you believe in Calvinistic predestination such that free will in our love for the truth has nothing to do with being drawn to God, it wouldn't bother you that we can't "find" God ourselves by just reading the Bible, since you have to have already accepted the gospel to read it "correctly". (So do you believe regeneration precedes faith?) Yet, it's a very self-contained little matrix the you believe in. Unprovable and unreachable by anyone on the outside, believed for self-consistency, with nothing else to recommend it. I can't prove we don't all live in a matrix, hooked up to machines and reality is merely virtual. But I can't accept belief in such a thing just because it is theoretically possible. God is too purposeful to make everything unknowable and unreasonable philosophically.

Response: Well this seems rather sharp and pointed and unproductive. Let me just say this: Give me good biblical arguments with solid interpretations for the Catholic position and then I will put on my rosary beads on and come to Rome sweet home, but if you cannot do that then why would anyone who is rational and fully clothed and in his right mind ever accept the Roman position? I just have never heard a good reason in all my life to be a Roman Catholic. So I can step out of my Calvinistic understanding if and only if I have good reason to do so and you have failed to do that thus far.

Nathanael Taylor said...

When I say reason by itself is insufficient, I mean that self-consistency in what you say is necessary but insufficient. You agree with the Bible, yes, and your view is self-consistent and debatably consistent with the Bible, but it is not consistent with or demonstrable from history, tradition, and philosophy. You can talk yourself into this gospel you believe to be the truth because of its intellectual rigor, yet there is little else to recommend it, while all things should be taken into account in pursuit of the truth. Of course, all these things are reasonable, that is not what I mean by "reason", I mean "logically self-consistent".

Response: Oh well I a do not hold to coherentism or coherence view of truth nor have I ever define reason as consistency. My understanding of reason is that it must show a correspondence to reality. I am not a Roman Catholic because I have no reason to think that it correspond to reality. The Bible through historical evidence and self-attestation is and can be shown to correspond to reality and the Catholic Church does not correspond to the Bible thereby suggesting that it is not true because truth is a correspondence to reality. But I do not know where you got the idea that reason was being coherent or self-consistent.

Furthermore, it is unBiblical to think that you must first accept the gospel to understand it from the Bible. They gospel was preached and explained, heard and understood and then accepted.

Response: I never said that. I am saying that people do understand the Bible fine, but they distort the truth of what it says because they are sinful and they suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1).

Your problem with infallible interpretation is very unpractical. If the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is wrong, you can't really "interpret" that in a lot of different ways. The Bible says murder is wrong, but some people believe abortion isn't murder. The Catholic Church's teachings can clarify what is in the Bible. I find it frustrating that you insist on reducing this to a thought experiment in which all statements may be misinterpreted equally, because this is a false assumption.

Response: I am sorry you feel that way. I agree all those statements are clear, I never said they were not. You could be mistaken about them, but you are probably not. But the same is true of the Gospel and sola fide:

Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

There are not a whole bunch of ways you can reasonably interpret this statement differently just like all those statements that you gave above.

Finally,
1) Catholics reject the gospel of belief alone because it is unbiblical

Response: You have not shown that.

2) they believe in the sufficiency and necessity of grace, but not the irresistibility of it

Response: If it is a sufficient cause then it is irresistible.

3) the Bible does teach an indestructible (and therefore "infallible in doctrine") and visible Church. Would you like the supporting evidence?

Response: Sure.

God Bless,

NPT

Stacey said...

Nathanael,

Before we continue further, I'd like to clarify a few things. I apologize for sounding brittle in a few places. I tend to get frustrated when I feel that I am being misunderstood or not listened to. That is something I need in order to dialogue - the effort on the part of the other to understand me, even if you disagree. Since you did not wish to check the links that I gave with Aquinas's Biblical proofs and gave page number and all, but would prefer me to repeat them in my own fumbling manner, I can't be sure that you really wish to understand the Catholic perspective. Do you want this blog to be more of a place for debate? You have misunderstood my attempts to explain the Catholic position and saw them as an effort to debate and dismiss it as a poor argument when it is not an argument at all. How can I prove something that I see you don't understand? Namely, the Catholic affirmation of God's grace necessary for all good and only good. Once I am sure you understand the position, even if you disagree with it based on the fact that you think free will undermines God's grace, then we can move on to proofs.

So, let me know if you wish to understand Catholicism, or if you only wish to prove Reformed Protestantism, and I will reply accordingly so that we don't waste either of our time. Also, perhaps if this string continues we can narrow the topic so the combox doesn't inflate.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Stacey,

Do not worry about it. Religion for many is a sensitive subject. I go to seminary and I have read Aquinas a year ago. I have read many parts of Roman Catholic Catechism. I understand your position just fine. What have I said that shows that I do not understand your position? Just because I give arguments against your position does not mean I do not understand it. So let me know what areas I am not understanding and we will go from there. But apart from that I am interested in hearing your responses to my arguments. You where Protestant once so you must have a good reason for being Catholic and I want to hear what that is. Maybe I missed something.

So, let me know if you wish to understand Catholicism, or if you only wish to prove Reformed Protestantism, and I will reply accordingly so that we don't waste either of our time. Also, perhaps if this string continues we can narrow the topic so the combox doesn't inflate.

Response: Lets be more precise here: what do I not understand? As far as I can see I understand it just fine.

God Bless,

NPT

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Stacey,

I actually took the time to read through all the links you have provided. I actually found nothing that I have not read before and I learned nothing new whatsoever about your position. So in the future can you just respond and interact with what I say instead of giving me a reading list that is not going to benefit the discussion much. In the future just give me your reasons for why you are a Roman Catholic.

God Bless,

NPT

Stacey said...

Hi Nathanael,

I'm sorry if you feel you wasted your time reading those links. I appreciate it, though, so perhaps if only for that, it wasn't a waste? I give links because they explain my reasons complete with Biblical citations and eloquence, and it saves space in the combox. As you ask, I'll refrain in the future, and use my own words. But, if you like to "assign reading", I'm always up for it, even books. I'll go read massive tomes in order to understand both sides of an argument better (and have read the Holy Scriptures trilogy just so).

With respect to what it seems you misunderstand: Catholics believe God's grace is necessary and sufficient in our salvation, but not irresistable. You equate sufficient with irresistable, and so have responded to my explanations with that in mind. You say that in the Catholic position, free will means that there is something intrinsicly superior in the person that causes their salvation, but my explanations are an attempt to correct that misunderstanding. The Catholic position denies the person any such right for boasting, as Trent denies the ability of a person to turn to God of their own free will [Ses 6, Chap 5], yet admits that of their own free will they may turn from Him. You may see this as nonsense for lack of understanding it, but it is necessary, and it is possible as shown by Augustine, Aquinas, and Molina.

I come from a semi-Pelagian background, and the concept of the necessity of God's grace is new and difficult for me to accept. Yet, semi-Pelagianism arises from the same mistake that your understanding of predestination does. People find it difficult to reconcile that God's grace is needed for all good things, and yet we still maintain our own free will to commit sins. Trying to reconcile this difficulty with human understanding, people inevitably sacrifice one necessity for another. Your logic, which you say is undeniable, is from human understanding, and is not from the Bible. The Bible has been twisted to fit human understanding (I don't mean this meanly, I know you would say the same about my understanding of the Bible, we can be honest).

You already know the reason it is necessary to affirm God's grace in everything, because this is what you do. Yet, in effort to affirm God's grace you say that 1) God causes evil and 2) make nonsense out of our relationship with Him.

On the first point: God cannot be a perfect and good God if he ordains any evil. Evil pollutes righteousness, and He is absolutely righteous. I read the page you referenced me to (and skimmed the comments) and this is the problem with your solutions. You say God is justified in causing evil for a greater good, so you essentially say that God has a philosophy of "the ends justify the means" and as long as in the end good outweighs the bad, it's all okay. It's unacceptable to attribute such an evil to our perfectly righteous God. Do you believe that the ends justify the means? Would you murder Hitler?

http://soimarriedacatholic.wordpress.com/2009/08/02/would-you-murder-hitler/

On the second point: A relationship is necessarily a free choice. Love is necessarily freely given to another. If like single consciousness proponents you take away the "other", you make nonsense of the concept of love. On the other hand, if you take away the freedom to give love, you also make nonsense of the concept. Since we are commanded in the Bible to love God and others, we know we must preserve free will. Also, without the freedom of will, our existence becomes a bit of a mockery, like acting out a scripted play.

The freedom of the will and the grace of God must be harmoniously understood if at all possible. Catholics are the only ones who do so.

I am mostly here answering your question on what I believed you misunderstood, because you repeatedly say that Catholics believe something intrinsic to the person and from them causes salvation and they don't. I'll respond to the rest of what you say later, when I have more time.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Stacey,

I'm sorry if you feel you wasted your time reading those links. I appreciate it, though, so perhaps if only for that, it wasn't a waste? I give links because they explain my reasons complete with Biblical citations and eloquence, and it saves space in the combox. As you ask, I'll refrain in the future, and use my own words. But, if you like to "assign reading", I'm always up for it, even books. I'll go read massive tomes in order to understand both sides of an argument better (and have read the Holy Scriptures trilogy just so).

Response: Oh it’s not a big deal at all really. I was just letting you know what I prefer. Thanks for being so understanding with this whole thing, religion after all can be a very touchy subject. To be honest I do not like to read a lot of extra stuff in general because I never have much time because I have so much other stuff I need to read for grad school. But I commend you for being a reader.

With respect to what it seems you misunderstand: Catholics believe God's grace is necessary and sufficient in our salvation, but not irresistable. You equate sufficient with irresistable, and so have responded to my explanations with that in mind. You say that in the Catholic position, free will means that there is something intrinsicly superior in the person that causes their salvation, but my explanations are an attempt to correct that misunderstanding. The Catholic position denies the person any such right for boasting, as Trent denies the ability of a person to turn to God of their own free will [Ses 6, Chap 5], yet admits that of their own free will they may turn from Him. You may see this as nonsense for lack of understanding it, but it is necessary, and it is possible as shown by Augustine, Aquinas, and Molina.

Response: I understand what you are saying here and how there might be confusion here. I think we need to clear up this first: a necessary condition is something that has to be done in order to accomplish a given end. A sufficient condition or a jointly sufficient condition is conditions that once meet it will accomplish that given end. So in the case of the Catholic view of grace it can indeed fail to make you a member of the elect or the ones that will inherit eternal life. This is to say not everyone who receives grace will receive eternal life; however, the Reformed Protestant states that everyone who receives grace will receive eternal life. Now I do not doubt for a second that the Catholic denies that one can boast because no position wants to go against God’s word on this score. But it seems to me although Catholics say this according to Paul they do have some room for boasting because their being saved depends on their cooperation with grace which they can choose not cooperate with it. Thus, grace is necessary and so is your cooperation with it a necessary condition which together is a jointly sufficient condition for your eternal life. Since all have this actual grace then the explanation as to why receive eternal life and others do not is your free will cooperating with grace. Thus, it is of you and grace together achieving eternal life; you therefore have room to boast. If you admit that grace is sufficient then why would you state that one can turn away from it?

Nathanael Taylor said...

I come from a semi-Pelagian background, and the concept of the necessity of God's grace is new and difficult for me to accept. Yet, semi-Pelagianism arises from the same mistake that your understanding of predestination does. People find it difficult to reconcile that God's grace is needed for all good things, and yet we still maintain our own free will to commit sins. Trying to reconcile this difficulty with human understanding, people inevitably sacrifice one necessity for another. Your logic, which you say is undeniable, is from human understanding, and is not from the Bible. The Bible has been twisted to fit human understanding (I don't mean this meanly, I know you would say the same about my understanding of the Bible, we can be honest).

Response: What have I said that is unreasonable? Surely if my reasoning is merely man made reasoning then don’t you think you can show the flaws in it? Well I know you know what I think about the Catholic Church, but I just do not see much use in repeating my view point of you again and again. In other words, I am more interested in reasons to be Catholic rather than the convictions that Catholics have about other view points besides their own.

You already know the reason it is necessary to affirm God's grace in everything, because this is what you do. Yet, in effort to affirm God's grace you say that 1) God causes evil and 2) make nonsense out of our relationship with Him.

Response: Well, I do not say everything is an act of God’s grace, perhaps in the saved this might be true, but certainly not all. Well one can hold to a Calvinistic Reformed position and need not be an exhaustive determinist as I am. But why could not God cause evil if he has a morally sufficient reason for it? This would thereby entail that God is not evil for causing evil since he a morally sufficient reason for it.

On the first point: God cannot be a perfect and good God if he ordains any evil. Evil pollutes righteousness, and He is absolutely righteous. I read the page you referenced me to (and skimmed the comments) and this is the problem with your solutions. You say God is justified in causing evil for a greater good, so you essentially say that God has a philosophy of "the ends justify the means" and as long as in the end good outweighs the bad, it's all okay. It's unacceptable to attribute such an evil to our perfectly righteous God. Do you believe that the ends justify the means? Would you murder Hitler?

Response: Well I did not think this would get into a discussion on my divine determinism but oh well, I enjoy a good discussion. I just want to say that one need not be a Reformed Calvinist to ascribe to my particular philosophical view point. So if you are planning to show Reformed Protestantism by this line of argumentation then you would be shooting down a straw man, but after all I hold to it. I believe the end justifies the means. We do not know which actions will bring about greatest ends of God’s glory since we cannot predict causally which means will bring about the greatest end (this is a typical problem with consequentialist ethics). God has to reveal this to us and he does so by general and special revelation. So I would not murder Hitler because God does not command it and God commanding it is way to bring about his greater glory. I do not say God is evil, rather I say God uses evil to bring about the greatest possible ends in accordance with him being the greatest possible being.

Nathanael Taylor said...

On the second point: A relationship is necessarily a free choice. Love is necessarily freely given to another. If like single consciousness proponents you take away the "other", you make nonsense of the concept of love. On the other hand, if you take away the freedom to give love, you also make nonsense of the concept. Since we are commanded in the Bible to love God and others, we know we must preserve free will. Also, without the freedom of will, our existence becomes a bit of a mockery, like acting out a scripted play.

Response: Well given my biblical arguments I gave earlier that you have no responded to as of yet I think that this reasoning is against that of the New Testament. Why think that we need freedom in order for love and relationship to exist? What do the commands in God’s word have to do with free will? Well without freewill I think our existence glorifies God more so than not. If God is the greatest possible being then he would have everything that is better to have rather than to lack. It is better for God to be dependent upon only himself rather than something lesser than God outside of himself. If human beings have Libertarian Free will then God’s knowledge is dependent on what they will or will not do. The Greatest possible being is dependent upon the lesser beings. But clearly the greatest possible being is only dependent upon himself rather than anything outside of himself that is lesser. Thus, human beings do not have libertarian free will.

The freedom of the will and the grace of God must be harmoniously understood if at all possible. Catholics are the only ones who do so.

Response: This again thereby entails that grace is not sufficient.

I am mostly here answering your question on what I believed you misunderstood, because you repeatedly say that Catholics believe something intrinsic to the person and from them causes salvation and they don't. I'll respond to the rest of what you say later, when I have more time.

Response: Catholics think it is intrinsic to person but it can only be intrinsic to that person if they are given enabling grace so that can either cooperate with it or repel it. Now I believe that we freely cooperate with grace because Grace is jointly sufficient for us to be saved.

God Bless,

NPT

Stacey said...

Nathanael,

I hope you have the patience to bear with me, because there is still confusion.

I do mean "sufficient", since "It is a dogma of the Catholic faith that there exists a truly sufficient but inefficacious grace, and also that there exists a truly efficacious grace which, however, is not necessitating."[Fr. Hardon] and freedom of human will under grace. But I don't believe "sufficient" here means as you say "once met will bring about that end" but instead means "all that is necessary to bring about the end" which is the dictionary definition as well. Make sense? Non-necessitating efficacious grace means "grace that has its intended affect but does not necessitate the outcome" and truly sufficient but inefficacious grace means "grace that is sufficient but without effect". So Catholics are saying we can have all that is necessary to bring about an end, but that end will not happen. The problem is that most everyone believes that sufficient grace must be efficacious and that the free will cannot resist it. The attempt to resolve this problem is the root cause of heresies like Pelagianism and Jansenism. However, the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught that all these things are necessary, and will not sacrifice one for the other.

So in the case of the Catholic view of grace it can indeed fail to make you a member of the elect or the ones that will inherit eternal life. This is to say not everyone who receives grace will receive eternal life; however, the Reformed Protestant states that everyone who receives grace will receive eternal life.

I agree with most of that, except that grace does not fail, but our will fails. And the conclusions we draw are different because of the definitions of "sufficient" above.

But it seems to me although Catholics say this according to Paul they do have some room for boasting because their being saved depends on their cooperation with grace which they can choose not cooperate with it.

Here's a difficulty I don't fully understand although I believe it: our justification "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". [Catholic Catechism] And yet, as you say, we can of our own free will not cooperate with it. "Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed." [Council of Orange, Canon 23] The Council of Orange absolutely denied the ability of the will to grasp justification: "The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him." and canon 13: "Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it." and yet, lest you believe they are advocating predestination such that God causes evil: "We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema."

Stacey said...

Thus, grace is necessary and so is your cooperation with it a necessary condition which together is a jointly sufficient condition for your eternal life.

Hopefully you can see by my explanations that it is not true that our cooperation is something we can do to fulfill a requirement for eternal life, since our cooperation is only letting God do His work than actually doing anything ourselves or by our power. It is not anything we do, nor by our power that we are saved, it is entirely the gracious gift of God from start to finish, sufficient for that reason. And yet two people can have the same sufficient grace, one entirely saved by this grace and by this grace alone, not by his own will, and the other is damned because he has chosen to destroy the gift. The only thing we can do of our own power is to reject it.

It's like someone who gives you CPR after drowning and saves your life without anything done on your part, yet you can turn around and jump back in the water, drowning, and destroying their gift. You can reject the gift, but you can't grasp it, even by desire, since you are already drowned, powerless and unconscious. Since every good and perfect gift comes from above, even the goodness of freely loving God is done from Him and by Him. It is entirely the Holy Spirit that has been poured out in our hearts that enables this. We cannot freely of our own choice and power choose such a thing or move toward it when it is entirely from God alone. But we have the freedom of choice, choosing to allow God to work in us (how is such a thing cause for boasting since none of it is from our power?), or not to cooperate and to reject the gift.

Another way of seeing that our cooperation (or allowing God to do His work) is not the cause of our salvation is to understand the way that God does not cause evil but allows it. I believe God is entirely good and neither ordains or causes evil, yet evil exists and how so? Because he allows it, even though it is not from Him.

Since all have this actual grace then the explanation as to why receive eternal life and others do not is your free will cooperating with grace.

Unfortunately, my explanation is a bit more muddled than that. There is no dogmatic answer here, and people making an effort to explain it is probably why you think Catholics don't teach sufficient grace, since the poor explanations reconciling dogmas tend to either impinge on grace or free will. There is a lot of debate continuing in the Church about this. As best I can see, (although I'm willing to give it up if proved wrong and only stubbornly hold to the three absolute dogmas I mentioned at the beginning of this comment), it is only by God's grace that we are able to will at all. Thus, preceded by his grace, we are enabled to will either to cooperate with Him and so allow Him to continue our justification that began as a gratuitous gift in baptism or to reject Him and return to sin and abandon faith. But then you may say "Aha! Cooperation is necessary." And I would reply, it is only by God's grace, so God's grace is sufficient.

If you admit that grace is sufficient then why would you state that one can turn away from it?

Have I helped you understand this at all? It is what I'm saying though, and what the Catholic Church says. I don't understand it very well myself, but accept it and then try to understand the difficulty it presents. So, please, when you disagree with Catholics, don't say that they don't teach sufficient grace, but that in your view they contradict themselves.

Stacey said...

In other words, I am more interested in reasons to be Catholic rather than the convictions that Catholics have about other view points besides their own.

Fair enough. This balance between grace and free will is one reason I'm drawn to the Catholic Church. That's why I'm trying so hard to explain it. It isn't something that can be conjured up by human ideas, and in fact, as I said people usually try to sacrifice one side for the other in order to make sense of it. ("It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes." Ecc 7:18) But the necessity of God's grace in everything and free will are both, in my opinion, needed in any system consistent with philosophy and the Bible. What I find unreasonable in what you say: You sacrifice free will, and you say God can author evil. Hopefully I can show you why that's unreasonable.

I already told you that God cannot be the author of evil, and therefore we must have free will, maybe I explain why I think this. We are already starting from two different philosophies though. I believe the ends never justify the means.

I do not say God is evil, rather I say God uses evil to bring about the greatest possible ends in accordance with him being the greatest possible being.

I'd agree He uses evil to bring about good, but not that He ever ordains/causes it. God is Good ("No one is good, except God alone" Mark 10:18), such that He is the original source of Goodness, from which all other goodness comes. It is part of His very essence. If it is part of His essence, and He is in fact Goodness itself, then He can't be lacking in any goodness or He would not be perfect Goodness, and He would no longer be Goodness. I don't think that you will argue and say there is another entity existing, another god, from which evil comes. So maybe you won't have a hard time acccepting this: Evil is seen in Catholic philosophy as lack of perfect goodness, and not a thing in itself, since all substance comes from God and He is Good. So if we are blind, that is an evil because we are supposed to see and lack that sight. If we murder our brother, that is an evil, because we are supposed to love him and yet lack that perfect love. So if God causes any evil, He would be lacking in Goodness, and no longer be perfect goodness. Saying that God causes any evil is to bring Him down to the level of human behavior, like the Greek gods.

There is a lot of philosophy at the root of Catholic theology. If you've read Aquinas, you should know some of it. This is another reason I'm drawn to the Catholic Faith, because it holds the very best of all God's creation, including philosophy, science, history, etc. and yet never goes so far as to accept these things as more worthy than God's revealed truth, but sees in them the truth that God has placed there.

Well, I do not say everything is an act of God’s grace, perhaps in the saved this might be true, but certainly not all.

So what is your view of God's grace?

Stacey said...

So if you are planning to show Reformed Protestantism by this line of argumentation then you would be shooting down a straw man, but after all I hold to it.

Just talking to you! Who really scrolls through comments anyway? I mean, besides me.

Why think that we need freedom in order for love and relationship to exist? What do the commands in God’s word have to do with free will?

Well, I've no clue where to start explaining why love needs be a free choice. I may just have to leave it at "That's what I believe, and that's why I believe free will is necessary" and then you may understand why I'm Catholic (or will be anyway).

Well without freewill I think our existence glorifies God more so than not. If God is the greatest possible being then he would have everything that is better to have rather than to lack. It is better for God to be dependent upon only himself rather than something lesser than God outside of himself. If human beings have Libertarian Free will then God’s knowledge is dependent on what they will or will not do.

Free will doesn't mean that God depends on us, rather we depend on Him for our freedom of will, the willing, and the grace that completes the good work He began in us. So His knowledge only depends on Himself. But if you already believe God would have everything better rather than to lack, you may accept that God would lack no goodness and so would cause no evil?

Unless you really want to continue this discussion of grace/free will, and the reasons I believe both are necessary, I'm happy with you accepting that sufficient grace is Catholic dogma, even though you may believe it contradicts the also dogmatic free will belief. I can then work on responding to the arguments you wrote before (although they've disappeared from my email! I'll have to work from the combox :P) Again, I apologize for the long time it takes me reply.

Stacey said...

Quick question, Nathanael,

You said: Response: Catholics think it is intrinsic to person but it can only be intrinsic to that person if they are given enabling grace so that can either cooperate with it or repel it. Now I believe that we freely cooperate with grace because Grace is jointly sufficient for us to be saved.

I don't get it. Haven't you been arguing against libertarian free will?

Stacey said...

Nathanael,

Getting back to our original discussion (although we do bunny trail)...

Response: Where does Paul define faith in this fashion?

I get this from the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible:

“Paul uses pistis to mean, above all, belief in the Christ kerygma [preaching], knowledge, obedience, trust in the Lord Jesus. It comes by hearing with faith the gospel message. . . . by responding with a confession about Christ . . . and by the ‘obedience of faith’ . . . ‘the obedience which faith is’.

and from Vine's Dictionary:

“The word pistis (4102), faith.
The word is used of (a) trust... (b) trustworthiness... (c) by metonymy, what is believed, the contents of belief, the “faith,” ... (d) a ground for “faith’, an assurance;... (e) a pledge of fidelity, plighted “faith,”...
The main elements in “faith” in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from “faith” in man... (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12; (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2 Cor. 5:7. Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context. All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good “faith” without necessary reference to its proof."

Faith as the Greek word pistis suggests means trust or belief. Moreover, the context of Roman does not allow for such a definition because word actions or works is contrasted with belief or trust.

From above, pistis includes fidelity and obedience, which is rightly contrasted with mere actions.

The problem with your understanding of Romans 2:5-16 is many. First Paul says elsewhere that those who where not involved in the Mosaic covenant prior to Christ had no hope of being saved (Eph. 2:12).

I don't know if non-Jews had the possibility of being saved or not before Christ, but I also don't know that it's saying they didn't here. If it can be understood otherwise, why assume? Since people can only have hope in what they know, they did not know the promise of the Messiah and could not have hope. It seems like you're taking one verse and ignoring others like Rom 2:13-15 that I cited.

Secondly, this work of the law that is written on the heart is said elsewhere that no one neither Jew or Gentile can keep this work of the law and be right before God (Rom. 3:9-20).

True enough.

Lastly, the Greek word for describing the Gentiles doing what the law requires is written is in the subjective rather than an indicative mood thereby suggesting this is hypothetical rather than actual statement of fact. And since we have good reason for affirming that no one can be saved by their works or apart from the covenant then we should let clearer scripture interpret and the imprecise and indeterminate scripture.

Agreed. Yet, I'm suggesting these people may not be saved by their works here, not by the Mosaic covenant, but by their faith in Christ, though they don't know His name, they have fidelity toward him inasmuch as they possibly know him through the law written on their hearts. Even before Christ walked the Earth, since God is outside of time in all eternity. But I'm not very attached to this idea. I don't see that it has much bearing on how Paul uses faith to argue who in history could possibly be saved.

Stacey said...

Response: The problem is the infused idea of grace is not found in the Greek word nor is it found in the Pauline usage.

And what if the infusion comes from a holistic view of the Bible, built upon its solid foundation, as the only right understanding that can come from it? I'm don't know the particulars of where the idea comes from, but if you think it's origins are flawed and I ought to look into it, I will for your sake.

The reason why the Catholic understanding of Grace is flawed is because Pauls definition of grace in Romans 11:6 does not include works at all. The Grace you hold to involves our effort and cooperation with grace, but if is of grace it cannot be of works otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

I left out that part of the Catholic definition is that it is God's favor, but goes on to say grace is infused. Are you satisfied with my lengthy previous explanations of grace that it is not by works and therefore, even if you think it contradicts other Catholic dogmas, is consistent with Romans 11:6?

The text [John 6:44] says that all the father draws will come to Jesus and that all that are drawn are raised on in glory. Now are you saying that not all are drawn?

The text actually says nobody comes to the Father unless they are drawn, not that all who the Father draws will come. Be careful with words. I'm suggesting that the Father "draws" such that He entices all equally, and yet not all are drawn.

The Greek word does suggests dragging so Augustine is simply wrong which is not surprising for a fellow who did not know Greek.

LOL, such flippancy toward one of the greatest thinkers the world has seen. You obviously know better, right ;) (I'm teasing, tones never come across in type, do they?)

Response: Why think that [1 Corinthians 1:8] is not referring to all Christians?

Why think that it is? I would suggest that it is not in order to be consistent with the rest of the Bible that says loss of salvation is possible.

Response: I understand [Aquinas's] interpretation [of Romans 8:28-30]. The problem with it is that foreknew does not mean in the Greek a foreknowing of facts and propositions of who will believe or who will disbelieve and so on.

You know Greek, don't you? Well, I don't have much knowledge of languages to either confirm or deny anything you say it means in Greek, so I have to trust that God ensured the English translation of the Bible to be sufficient for me.

Rather it simply an active verb suggesting loving persons beforehand and this is the Pauline usage in Romans (11:2) and in Greek words are defined by their context.

So is that why Aquinas goes on about loving people beforehand in his commentaries on Romans? Of course, the ability to love someone beforehand is contingent on knowledge of them beforehand, right?

This does not escape the simple fact that all that are justified are glorified thereby suggesting that one cannot lose their justification.

Not really. Aquinas believes (and so do I) that Paul is talking about the invariable number of elect who God knows will continue to be justified until the last day, since God is outside of time and knows all things that occur in time as if they exist simultaneously. So those who God foreknew are these invariable elect, whatever definition of foreknow you put to it.

Stacey said...

With respect to be uncertain: This maybe true, but this simply means that once someone is justified and united to Christ he cannot be separated whether he knows it or not.

Your "whether he knows it or not" explanation isn't consistent with:

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." [1 Cor 9:27] and in [Phil 3:12] Paul says he has not already attained eternal life. And we are told that only those that persevere will be saved [Matt 24:13, Romans 2:7] not that those who are saved will persevere. Clearest of all is "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off." God's kindness is contingent on our continuing in His kindness. How can this be explained by a "whether you know it or not" viewpoint?

Romans 8 is addressing a metaphysical state of affairs that once one is justified and united to Christ he cannot lose it, but it is not addressing an epistemological issue so Aquinas bringing up an epistemological issue has very little relevance on this passage.

So how is it that you know it's addressing a metaphysical state of affairs?

Protestants can agree that we might have some epistemological unclarity about our salvation, but Reformed Protestant have to hold that once someone is saved they are saved and they cannot lose it.

I find it strange that you admit people to have uncertainty, so to the believer, things look very much the same whether Protestant or Catholic. For all you know, you could lose your faith and you may not be saved. The practical difference is really that Catholics believe you can do something about it: cooperate with God's grace. So I believe the once saved, always saved perspective can lead to despair and frustration and eventually falling away from faith, which I've seen many times. That's another reason I can't accept that view: I have seen people lose faith. Although I cannot judge their hearts as God does, from what I've seen I believe they had a real faith. My experience is therefore consistent with the Catholic view that we can in fact turn from God after walking with Him. There's rather famous examples too: Origen and Tertullian. Reading before and after works, it's hard to believe that men endowed with such grace and understanding of God could fall so far.

The Catholic holds that you have epistemological uncertainity about your salvation and you could actually metaphysically lose it. Romans 8 defeats the latter but not the former thereby rendering the Catholic position unbiblical on this score.

In your opinion. I don't see that Romans 8 so clearly says we can't have metaphysical uncertainty. You would have to step by step logically take me through the Greek and eliminating every other possible consequence of every step to convince me of such a thing. Even then, I'd have a hard time believing it since I think it is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible, experience, the Apostolic Faith, and my own understanding.

The will be is not in the original Greek text [of 1 Peter 1:3-4] nor is it in the English. Why think that hope entails unattained or possibility to lose it. The Greek word for hope does not entail that definition. It can mean an expectation or a confidence is something that will definitely happen.

Consider the context of the text. I inserted emphasis with the words "will be" to show you how I understand the word "inheritance". In general, inheritances can be lost until you receive them. Since this inheritance is for the next life, it can be lost during this one until you get it in the next. Hope "can mean" expectation or confidence of something that will definitely happen, but doesn't necessarily.

Stacey said...

If we are able to choose to have faith or not to have it that means it is up to us which the author negates in Ephesians 2:8-9, even if we have influences like grace. If grace is sufficient and efficient then we would not have a choice and it would not be up to us, which is what the passage teaches.

The sufficient, but sometimes inefficacious, grace taught by the Catholic Church is consistent with Eph 2:8-9. I really hope you can accept this, even though you think it contradicts free will. Remember, though, all explanations of how to marry the two concepts are personal attempts, not Catholic teaching.

The passage [2 Cor 4:6,7] does not talk about our ability to shut or eyes nor does it even suggest it. So Augustine is wrong again. The passage does just the opposite it says this power is not in us to have knowledge of Christ, but it is in God. You believe it is in God and in man to cooperate freely which is not what the passage teaches.

Sufficient grace is consistent with this passage. Our ability to reject a gift that is entirely from God doesn't mean that we have helped in bringing it about.

So I can step out of my Calvinistic understanding if and only if I have good reason to do so and you have failed to do that thus far.

You really want one? The best and most unavoidable reason I can think of is that the Catholic Faith is the true and Apostolic Faith handed down faithfully by the Apostles and their successors, ordained by the power of Christ. I intend to write a few blog posts detailing how I've come to see the Catholic Church this way. Of course, it may not change your mind, but if you're interested in my reasons, I'll leave a note here when I'm done and you can read it if you have time.

Oh well I a do not hold to coherentism or coherence view of truth nor have I ever define reason as consistency. My understanding of reason is that it must show a correspondence to reality.

Okay. Sorry for the flubbed wording. I do have difficulties with precise communication sometimes and try hard to overcome it.

I am saying that people do understand the Bible fine, but they distort the truth of what it says because they are sinful and they suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1).

Right. So wouldn't it help to have a reliable source that teaches the gospel with organic interaction, question and answer style? ;) (rhetorical)

I agree all those statements are clear,... But the same is true of the Gospel and sola fide:

Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


Sufficient grace taught by the Catholic Church is consistent with this. Free will such that we can reject God's gifts is also consistent with the Bible: "how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." [Matt 23:37]

1) Catholics reject the gospel of belief alone because it is unbiblical

Response: You have not shown that.


James 2:24

2) they believe in the sufficiency and necessity of grace, but not the irresistibility of it

Response: If it is a sufficient cause then it is irresistible.


Obviously, I disagree.

3) the Bible does teach an indestructible (and therefore "infallible in doctrine") and visible Church. Would you like the supporting evidence?

Response: Sure.


I'll write a blog post and let you know when I'm done.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Stacey,

I do mean "sufficient", since "It is a dogma of the Catholic faith that there exists a truly sufficient but inefficacious grace, and also that there exists a truly efficacious grace which, however, is not necessitating."[Fr. Hardon] and freedom of human will under grace. But I don't believe "sufficient" here means as you say "once met will bring about that end" but instead means "all that is necessary to bring about the end" which is the dictionary definition as well. Make sense? Non-necessitating efficacious grace means "grace that has its intended affect but does not necessitate the outcome" and truly sufficient but inefficacious grace means "grace that is sufficient but without effect". So Catholics are saying we can have all that is necessary to bring about an end, but that end will not happen. The problem is that most everyone believes that sufficient grace must be efficacious and that the free will cannot resist it. The attempt to resolve this problem is the root cause of heresies like Pelagianism and Jansenism. However, the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught that all these things are necessary, and will not sacrifice one for the other.

Response: I am using the term sufficient and necessary with respect to the philosophical language of a necessary condition and a sufficient condition which is defined as follows:
A necessary condition of a statement must be satisfied for the statement to be true. Formally, a statement P is a necessary condition of a statement Q if Q implies P. For example, the ability to breathe is necessary to a human's survival. Likewise, for the whole numbers greater than two, being odd is necessary to being prime, since two is the only whole number that is both even and prime.
A sufficient condition is one that, if satisfied, assures the statement's truth. Formally, a statement P is a sufficient condition of a statement Q if P implies Q. Thus, jumping is sufficient to leave the ground, since an intrinsic element of the concept jumping is leaving the ground. A number's being divisible by 2 is sufficient for its being even.
A condition can be either necessary or sufficient without being the other. For instance, being a mammal (P) is necessary but not sufficient to being human (Q), and that a number q is rational (P) is sufficient but not necessary to q‘s being a real number (Q). A condition can be both necessary and sufficient. For example, at present, "today is the Fourth of July" is a necessary and sufficient condition for "today is Independence Day in the United States." Similarly, a necessary and sufficient condition for invertibility of a matrix M is that M have a nonzero determinant.
This definition is confirmed by all the philosophical literature as well as these three sites:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/necessary-sufficient/#1
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necessary_and_sufficient_condition
http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/swartz/conditions1.htm#section2
Thus, once Grace helps the will to get to a certain place it is up to the will to cause itself to cooperate with grace making the cooperation of the will a necessary condition of having eternal life. And since you by the help of grace are one of the conditions for eternal life then you have room to boast because you could have not cooperated and thereby not have received eternal life.

Nathanael Taylor said...

I agree with most of that, except that grace does not fail, but our will fails. And the conclusions we draw are different because of the definitions of "sufficient" above.

Response: Good point. So the Catholic view is such that we would a want to say that grace does not intend to save per se but rather it intends to enable you so that you cooperate and be saved. So in what Grace is intended for in the Catholic view it does fail, but since the Bible teaches that Grace is meant to be sufficient for salvation from a Biblical perspective it fails to give us what it is intended to do, namely give us eternal life.


Here's a difficulty I don't fully understand although I believe it: our justification "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". [Catholic Catechism] And yet, as you say, we can of our own free will not cooperate with it. "Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed." [Council of Orange, Canon 23] The Council of Orange absolutely denied the ability of the will to grasp justification: "The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him." and canon 13: "Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it." and yet, lest you believe they are advocating predestination such that God causes evil: "We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema."

Response: I think that the first Catholic citation from the CCC is referring to what Catholics call initial justification by baptism which does not depend on anything we do. When the Bible talks about justification it speaks of faith as being the instrument. The difficulty is that what you have said above does not really answer my objection that Catholics say you cannot boast according to Paul they do have some room for boasting because their being saved depends on their cooperation with grace which they can choose not cooperate with it. Now I know that Catholic dogma has it that you need grace in order to have a free will and that you cannot be saved a part from grace, but the fact of the matter is that grace plus will to cooperate grace is what gives you eternal life so one does have room to boast because the reason why one goes to heaven and the other to hell has to do with one cooperating with the grace of God and the other not.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hopefully you can see by my explanations that it is not true that our cooperation is something we can do to fulfill a requirement for eternal life, since our cooperation is only letting God do His work than actually doing anything ourselves or by our power. It is not anything we do, nor by our power that we are saved, it is entirely the gracious gift of God from start to finish, sufficient for that reason. And yet two people can have the same sufficient grace, one entirely saved by this grace and by this grace alone, not by his own will, and the other is damned because he has chosen to destroy the gift. The only thing we can do of our own power is to reject it.

Response: So you can freely choose to allow God to do work on you or you can reject it. Again you are a necessary condition to allow God or to reject God so you have room to boast. If there is any sort of libertarian freedom at all in this whether it is enabled by grace or anything then there will always be this objection that you freely allowed God to save you or you did not allow him to save you making your enabled free will in the scheme of the conditions for eternal life.

It's like someone who gives you CPR after drowning and saves your life without anything done on your part, yet you can turn around and jump back in the water, drowning, and destroying their gift. You can reject the gift, but you can't grasp it, even by desire, since you are already drowned, powerless and unconscious. Since every good and perfect gift comes from above, even the goodness of freely loving God is done from Him and by Him. It is entirely the Holy Spirit that has been poured out in our hearts that enables this. We cannot freely of our own choice and power choose such a thing or move toward it when it is entirely from God alone. But we have the freedom of choice, choosing to allow God to work in us (how is such a thing cause for boasting since none of it is from our power?), or not to cooperate and to reject the gift.

Response: Yes, I understand. I do not see how it really helps your position much, but that has been my understanding of the Catholic position since day one. The reason why you can boast is because you were more holy than those who were in hell who did not allow the grace of God freely in their life. So there is something that is better about you than those who are burning in hell namely you were holy enough to cooperate with grace and allow God to do his work and they were not. You have room to boast given this. The Reformed Protestant position is not like this at all. We say that there was nothing I did or allow or anything to get me into heaven. I deserved to go to hell just as much as the others in hell. The only reason why I did not go to hell was not because I let God do his thing and others did not. Rather I did not have a free choice at all God saved me when I hated him and he transformed my heart such that I could not do other than have eternal life. I literally have no room to boast because I did nothing of my own freedom or will to even allow God in and I can say with Paul I have no room to boast about my salvation. But the Catholic position allows one to boast because you let God do his work freely.

The reason I am saved:

Reformed Theology: God alone and nothing I willed at all.

Roman Theology: God’s grace and my willingness to let his grace work in me.

This why the Protestants could say with confidence may God alone be the glory forever and ever.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Another way of seeing that our cooperation (or allowing God to do His work) is not the cause of our salvation is to understand the way that God does not cause evil but allows it. I believe God is entirely good and neither ordains or causes evil, yet evil exists and how so? Because he allows it, even though it is not from Him.

Response: Thus, God is not the cause of our salvation but he allows it and you can boast because you freely went along with it and you can boast contrary to the teachings of the Bible.

Unfortunately, my explanation is a bit more muddled than that. There is no dogmatic answer here, and people making an effort to explain it is probably why you think Catholics don't teach sufficient grace, since the poor explanations reconciling dogmas tend to either impinge on grace or free will. There is a lot of debate continuing in the Church about this. As best I can see, (although I'm willing to give it up if proved wrong and only stubbornly hold to the three absolute dogmas I mentioned at the beginning of this comment), it is only by God's grace that we are able to will at all. Thus, preceded by his grace, we are enabled to will either to cooperate with Him and so allow Him to continue our justification that began as a gratuitous gift in baptism or to reject Him and return to sin and abandon faith. But then you may say "Aha! Cooperation is necessary." And I would reply, it is only by God's grace, so God's grace is sufficient.

Response: So if it’s by God’s grace alone that you have eternal life you do not need to cooperate with it, allow it, or let God do his work in you?

Have I helped you understand this at all? It is what I'm saying though, and what the Catholic Church says. I don't understand it very well myself, but accept it and then try to understand the difficulty it presents. So, please, when you disagree with Catholics, don't say that they don't teach sufficient grace, but that in your view they contradict themselves.

Response: I have had the same understanding the entire time. Why would it not be a contradiction in your view? I do not believe that contradictions are person relative.

Fair enough. This balance between grace and free will is one reason I'm drawn to the Catholic Church. That's why I'm trying so hard to explain it. It isn't something that can be conjured up by human ideas, and in fact, as I said people usually try to sacrifice one side for the other in order to make sense of it. ("It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes." Ecc 7:18) But the necessity of God's grace in everything and free will are both, in my opinion, needed in any system consistent with philosophy and the Bible. What I find unreasonable in what you say: You sacrifice free will, and you say God can author evil. Hopefully I can show you why that's unreasonable.

Response: God is not the author of evil because when he causes creature to choose the evil God does it without evil intent and in order to accomplishing the greater good. The Reformed have always rejected that God is the author of evil. Why think we need free will? The only reason I do so is because of the argument from God being the greatest possible being and from the Biblical witness, thus both philosophy and the scriptures attest to this fact: free will in creatures do not exist. So I do not really see it as a sacrifice. Some people hold that being caused is compatible with free will and many Reformed people hold this position, but I do not. The balance that you think you have found is either contradictory or it is anti-biblical because you can boast so I am not really sure the balance you think you have found is really much a theoretical virtue at all.

Nathanael Taylor said...

I already told you that God cannot be the author of evil, and therefore we must have free will, maybe I explain why I think this. We are already starting from two different philosophies though. I believe the ends never justify the means.

Response: I think God causes creatures to do evil but God is not evil in doing this and thus he is not the author of evil because he has morally sufficient reason. So I think given my position we can have a lacking of freedom and still make God not the author of evil. I am a consequentialist so I think that in some cases the ends justifies the means, but not all cases of course. So if someone came to your door who was a Nazi and you were hiding Jews, would you not lie to the Nazi in order to save the Jewish lives?

I'd agree He uses evil to bring about good, but not that He ever ordains/causes it. God is Good ("No one is good, except God alone" Mark 10:18), such that He is the original source of Goodness, from which all other goodness comes. It is part of His very essence. If it is part of His essence, and He is in fact Goodness itself, then He can't be lacking in any goodness or He would not be perfect Goodness, and He would no longer be Goodness. I don't think that you will argue and say there is another entity existing, another god, from which evil comes. So maybe you won't have a hard time acccepting this: Evil is seen in Catholic philosophy as lack of perfect goodness, and not a thing in itself, since all substance comes from God and He is Good. So if we are blind, that is an evil because we are supposed to see and lack that sight. If we murder our brother, that is an evil, because we are supposed to love him and yet lack that perfect love. So if God causes any evil, He would be lacking in Goodness, and no longer be perfect goodness. Saying that God causes any evil is to bring Him down to the level of human behavior, like the Greek gods.

Response: Well this entire critique assumes a deontological view of ethics which I reject. I hold to a consequentialist view of ethics so God causing creatures to make evil choices would not make him evil because he has a morally sufficient reason for it such that had he not caused them to choose evil then the greater good would not be accomplished. I would agree with all of your assertions about God being good because I think it is logically impossible that God sin’s or does anything wrong. I reject Augustines view of evil being a lacking of being. Rather I would hold that evil is a positive thing; it is namely breaking God’s holy commandments and going against his Holy will. The Bible no where teaches the lacking view that you speak of but rather evil is positively going against God’s holy and righteous character. Perhaps the major difference between us is that I would see sin as more ethical rather than metaphysical.

There is a lot of philosophy at the root of Catholic theology. If you've read Aquinas, you should know some of it. This is another reason I'm drawn to the Catholic Faith, because it holds the very best of all God's creation, including philosophy, science, history, etc. and yet never goes so far as to accept these things as more worthy than God's revealed truth, but sees in them the truth that God has placed there.

Response: I would say that this is the reason why I am not a Catholic because it reads man made philosophy into the text rather than taking the word of God for what it actually is.

Matthew 15:5-9 5 But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, 6 he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

Nathanael Taylor said...

So what is your view of God's grace?

Response: God’s grace has two elements special and common. Special Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards his elect such that his grace for them is sufficient to redeem them and that there is nothing they can do to have eternal life. I would reject that everything is act of grace in this sense. Common Grace is the grace has for humanity in general. It is has nothing to do with salvation and it basically allows God to let the rain fall on the just and unjust when God has ever right to wipe them all out.

Well, I've no clue where to start explaining why love needs be a free choice. I may just have to leave it at "That's what I believe, and that's why I believe free will is necessary" and then you may understand why I'm Catholic (or will be anyway).

Response: Okay well that is fine, we may disagree philosophically. But do you have biblical evidence for this conclusion you have here?

Free will doesn't mean that God depends on us, rather we depend on Him for our freedom of will, the willing, and the grace that completes the good work He began in us. So His knowledge only depends on Himself. But if you already believe God would have everything better rather than to lack, you may accept that God would lack no goodness and so would cause no evil?

Response: I think you missed my point here. We depend on God to give us free will on the Catholic view, but problem arises because God’s knowledge about what we would do with that free will is dependent on the creature and thus God’s knowledge is dependent on what the creature would do. Well since I am a consequentialist I do not think him causing creatures sufficiently to do evil actions makes him evil but rather increases his goodness because it brings about a greater end.

Unless you really want to continue this discussion of grace/free will, and the reasons I believe both are necessary, I'm happy with you accepting that sufficient grace is Catholic dogma, even though you may believe it contradicts the also dogmatic free will belief. I can then work on responding to the arguments you wrote before (although they've disappeared from my email! I'll have to work from the combox :P) Again, I apologize for the long time it takes me reply.

Response: Do not worry about the combox. It is fine with me.


I don't get it. Haven't you been arguing against libertarian free will?

Response: I misspoke here.

Nathanael Taylor said...

I get this from the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible:

“Paul uses pistis to mean, above all, belief in the Christ kerygma [preaching], knowledge, obedience, trust in the Lord Jesus. It comes by hearing with faith the gospel message. . . . by responding with a confession about Christ . . . and by the ‘obedience of faith’ . . . ‘the obedience which faith is’.

Response: The phrase obedience of faith is merely saying that “obedience comes from faith” it is not using them as synonymous terms in the genitive case. This would then suggest that good works comes from faith, but that is different from saying that faith and works justify the sinner. Moreover, the context of Romans contrasts faith and works and if your understanding were correct then they would be contrasting works and works, which seems to me not much of a contrast. But the rest of the definition I agree with and is the majority usage of pistis.

and from Vine's Dictionary:

“The word pistis (4102), faith.
The word is used of (a) trust... (b) trustworthiness... (c) by metonymy, what is believed, the contents of belief, the “faith,” ... (d) a ground for “faith’, an assurance;... (e) a pledge of fidelity, plighted “faith,”...
The main elements in “faith” in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from “faith” in man... (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12; (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2 Cor. 5:7. Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context. All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good “faith” without necessary reference to its proof."

Response: Clearly Paul is using pistis in the sense of trust in God, specifically Christ. Pistis is determined by the context and since the context of Romans contrasts faith and works then the meaning of faith here cannot mean the same thing as works. By the way pistis can mean faithfulness but that is it’s most uncommon usage in the New Testament and there is another way to express the idea of faithfulness in the Greek that is always means it much clearly.

From above, pistis includes fidelity and obedience, which is rightly contrasted with mere actions.

Response: It can lexically mean that but that is not the predominate usage in the New Testament. The context has to determine it. Paul never calls the works mere works he calls them works which would undoubtly included the first commandment to love the Lord God with all your heart. So certainly fidelity and obedience is what works are and Paul contrasts this with faith by which we are justified.


I don't know if non-Jews had the possibility of being saved or not before Christ, but I also don't know that it's saying they didn't here. If it can be understood otherwise, why assume? Since people can only have hope in what they know, they did not know the promise of the Messiah and could not have hope. It seems like you're taking one verse and ignoring others like Rom 2:13-15 that I cited.

Response: I do not think it can be understood adequately otherwise. Paul is speaking from his perspective of them not having hope not the hope that they had or did not have. He is saying that they in fact had no hope and they were without God surely someone that has these characteristics is not saved because one can have hope for someone else if they can be saved. Well that is strange that you said I ignored Romans 2:13-15 when I gave reasons for how this verse is compatible with Eph. 2:12.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Agreed. Yet, I'm suggesting these people may not be saved by their works here, not by the Mosaic covenant, but by their faith in Christ, though they don't know His name, they have fidelity toward him inasmuch as they possibly know him through the law written on their hearts. Even before Christ walked the Earth, since God is outside of time in all eternity. But I'm not very attached to this idea. I don't see that it has much bearing on how Paul uses faith to argue who in history could possibly be saved.

Response: Everything you just said is not found in Romans 2 about the gentiles so I do not know why you would think that Romans 2 would support the idea that people can have salvation by faith in Christ because the work of the law is written on the heart. But this interpretation is not very plausible because in Romans 3 Paul says that no one can be justified by works of the law, but if that includes knowledge and faith in Christ then that means no one can be justified period which is contrary to the teaching in Romans 3 through 11 that teaches we can be justified by faith in Christ.

I left out that part of the Catholic definition is that it is God's favor, but goes on to say grace is infused. Are you satisfied with my lengthy previous explanations of grace that it is not by works and therefore, even if you think it contradicts other Catholic dogmas, is consistent with Romans 11:6?

Response: When you do a good work is that not the grace of God? If you answer yes then obviously this is incompatible with 11:6. The idea of grace excludes works so much that Paul can ask this question:

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

The text actually says nobody comes to the Father unless they are drawn, not that all who the Father draws will come. Be careful with words. I'm suggesting that the Father "draws" such that He entices all equally, and yet not all are drawn.

Response: The person he draws will be raised on the last day in Glory (John 6:40). Obviously the one he draws will be saved so he must come because he will be raised on the last day. Whoever he draws will be raised on the last day so you think all will be saved then?

LOL, such flippancy toward one of the greatest thinkers the world has seen. You obviously know better, right ;) (I'm teasing, tones never come across in type, do they?)

Response: I respect Augustine, but at the same time he did not know Greek. But the Greek teaches a dragging here which would suggest my position.

Why think that it is? I would suggest that it is not in order to be consistent with the rest of the Bible that says loss of salvation is possible.

Response: Well because the Bible is written by God meant to be applied to our lives. There are no verses that suggest that you can lose your salvation.

So is that why Aquinas goes on about loving people beforehand in his commentaries on Romans? Of course, the ability to love someone beforehand is contingent on knowledge of them beforehand, right?

Response: Yes, God loved them before he created them.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Not really. Aquinas believes (and so do I) that Paul is talking about the invariable number of elect who God knows will continue to be justified until the last day, since God is outside of time and knows all things that occur in time as if they exist simultaneously. So those who God foreknew are these invariable elect, whatever definition of foreknow you put to it.

Response: Ah yes, the classic Roman distinction between the elect and the justified.

Unfortunately Paul has no such distinction in mind:

Romans 8:32-33 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.

Paul thinks that the elect are the same as those who have been justified because they are used interchangeably here. This is also a good argument for particular redemption as well, namely, that Christ only died for the justified and the elect because Paul applies the benefits of Christ’s death to those who are justified. To make these distinctions where Paul has no intention of doing so is unbiblical. And furthermore, why think that Paul is not thinking of all the justified here rather than those who are justified and elect? Where do you get in the context of the book of Romans that not all the justified are the elect?

With Respect to time and Aquinas: If God is outside of time but yet he knows all things simultaneously (at the same time) then isn’t that a contradiction in terms since the very nature of being simultaneous assumes temporality? This has been a classical argument against the Thomistic position.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Your "whether he knows it or not" explanation isn't consistent with:

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." [1 Cor 9:27] and in [Phil 3:12] Paul says he has not already attained eternal life. And we are told that only those that persevere will be saved [Matt 24:13, Romans 2:7] not that those who are saved will persevere. Clearest of all is "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off." God's kindness is contingent on our continuing in His kindness. How can this be explained by a "whether you know it or not" viewpoint?

Response: I have dealt with all of these texts in much length elsewhere in my discussions with other Roman Catholics. 1 Cor. 9:27 just means that Paul did know infallibly that he was saved or not but he knew fallibly which means he could have been wrong about whether or not he had been justified by faith to begin with. Phil. 3:12 is pointing out the obvious truth that Paul had not been glorified and received eternal life. Matt. 24:13 is talking about the people in the church from our perspective and not God’s. For God it is all who are saved will preserver, but since we are not God then we see it as all who preserve will be saved since we know who is justified by faith by their works (James 2). Romans 2:7 is true of all those who have been justified by faith.

And as for Romans 11:

This verse teaches that the Jews were cut off from the covenant community and that if the gentiles do not continue in the faith then there will be some day in which they are cut off from the covenant community. But you might say "well if one being in the covenant community is dependent on faith then how can you avoid the fact that this passages is referring to ones loss of individual salvation". My response to this is that a gentile parent could baptize their child in the covenant community and then their child could have never believed in the first place but stayed in the covenant community and then that unbelieving parent had children and baptized them out of tradition and then the children of that parent has no Godly influence and thus remains a non-believer and this could continue on until the entire cooperate unit would be cut off covenantally. In this way you can have a sort of cooperate breaking off of the covenant community without it effecting one's individual salvation.

So how is it that you know it's addressing a metaphysical state of affairs?

Response: Simply because Paul is telling us infallibly what is the case rather than what someone knows to be the case about their status in Christ or not.

Nathanael Taylor said...

I find it strange that you admit people to have uncertainty, so to the believer, things look very much the same whether Protestant or Catholic. For all you know, you could lose your faith and you may not be saved. The practical difference is really that Catholics believe you can do something about it: cooperate with God's grace. So I believe the once saved, always saved perspective can lead to despair and frustration and eventually falling away from faith, which I've seen many times. That's another reason I can't accept that view: I have seen people lose faith. Although I cannot judge their hearts as God does, from what I've seen I believe they had a real faith. My experience is therefore consistent with the Catholic view that we can in fact turn from God after walking with Him. There's rather famous examples too: Origen and Tertullian. Reading before and after works, it's hard to believe that men endowed with such grace and understanding of God could fall so far.

Response: I would say that there is nothing we can know with absolute certainty, so that is not really a problem with respect to our salvation. The difference between Protestants and Catholics is that obviously if one is justified they are justified either by faith alone or works and faith. As you said it best yourself as a Catholic you can do something about it which means you have room to boast about your salvation whereas I do not. You rather appeal to your experience rather than the inspired word of God and that is where we fundamentally differ. I use the Bible to interpret my experience if I see a friend who says he is no longer a Christian then I believe that faith was not genuine and not wrought by God himself. Thus, he was never justified to begin with.


In your opinion. I don't see that Romans 8 so clearly says we can't have metaphysical uncertainty. You would have to step by step logically take me through the Greek and eliminating every other possible consequence of every step to convince me of such a thing. Even then, I'd have a hard time believing it since I think it is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible, experience, the Apostolic Faith, and my own understanding.

Response: It clearly makes a statement of fact that nothing can separate us from Christ Jesus:

Romans 8:35-39 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Consider the context of the text. I inserted emphasis with the words "will be" to show you how I understand the word "inheritance". In general, inheritances can be lost until you receive them. Since this inheritance is for the next life, it can be lost during this one until you get it in the next. Hope "can mean" expectation or confidence of something that will definitely happen, but doesn't necessarily.

Response: Human inheritances can be lost, but since we have no reason to think that divine inheritances can be lost then we should not read that end. Usually sons are not divine but that does not mean just because Jesus was not a son that therefore he was not divine. Yes, this is true. So just because we see the word hope there does not entail that it means it will not happy or may not happen.

Nathanael Taylor said...

The sufficient, but sometimes inefficacious, grace taught by the Catholic Church is consistent with Eph 2:8-9. I really hope you can accept this, even though you think it contradicts free will. Remember, though, all explanations of how to marry the two concepts are personal attempts, not Catholic teaching.

Response: I think I responded to this above when I went over necessary and sufficient conditions.

Sufficient grace is consistent with this passage. Our ability to reject a gift that is entirely from God doesn't mean that we have helped in bringing it about.

Response: No, it is not. Because when the light shines in the darkness the darkness cannot resist the light shining, it happens in a causally sufficient way. You have to allow God to do his work in you of your own free will; the same is not true of a light that shines into the darkness, it just happens without any cooperation whatsoever.


You really want one? The best and most unavoidable reason I can think of is that the Catholic Faith is the true and Apostolic Faith handed down faithfully by the Apostles and their successors, ordained by the power of Christ. I intend to write a few blog posts detailing how I've come to see the Catholic Church this way. Of course, it may not change your mind, but if you're interested in my reasons, I'll leave a note here when I'm done and you can read it if you have time.

Response: Why do you think that it is the true Apostolic faith handed down faithfully by the Apostles and their successors and ordained by the power of Christ?

Right. So wouldn't it help to have a reliable source that teaches the gospel with organic interaction, question and answer style?

Response: Yes, it would. It would also just help if God infused in our minds in an a priori way all truths that are necessary for salvation in an undoubtably and infallible fashion like 1+1=2….but I doubt that anyone believes this to be true.

Sufficient grace taught by the Catholic Church is consistent with this. Free will such that we can reject God's gifts is also consistent with the Bible: "how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." [Matt 23:37]

Response: It is not sufficient condition; see my above philosophical definitions of a necessary and a sufficient condition. Matthew 23:37 has nothing to do with rejecting God’s grace with respect to salvation. It has to do with the religious leaders not wanting the rest of the Israelites to be saved, but it never says that God will not save them because of this you are reading that into this text.

James 2:24

Response: I responded to this a long time ago and I never got a response from you on it. This refers to justification before men.

God Bless,

NPT

Stacey said...

Nathanael,

I haven't forgotten about you. I'm trying to clear something up before I respond.

Stacey said...

Nathaniel,

After having lost my response to you when my computer shut down, and attempting to find time to read and re-respond, I've given up on the illusion that running after two little ones and attempting to keep up with household duties gives me the leeway to have in depth conversations like this one. Sorry I've dropped it! Thank you, though, for taking time to talk to me. I've learned a lot.

Stacey said...

Nathanael,

I was wondering if you would do me a favor, since you have been the one with an opposing opinion to mine most willing to explain things clearly. I don't understand the perspective of those who use this "infinite regression" argument with respect to interpretation, for some reasons along the lines of my original comment here. I've encountered it with others and wish to see why they think it is a valid objection to the Catholic position. Do you have the time and willingness to discuss it here?