Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Will There Be A Future Divine Judgment By Works?

Introduction

Historic Protestantism has always taught that the Bible teaches that justification is by faith alone. The Doctrine of justification by faith alone is clearly taught in Romans 3:28 28 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” However, there has been in recent years some Protestants that reject the doctrine of justification by faith alone on the basis of a future justification based on works. This rejection of justification by faith alone can be explicit or implicit depending on who you are reading. This tendency to reject sola fide on the basis of a future justification by works is primarily held by those who are proponents of the Federal Visionists movement. To give a concrete example: Rich Lusk is a Federal Visionists proponent and he says the following from his blog here http://www.hornes.org/theologia/rich-lusk/future-justification-to-the-doers-of-the-law concerning future justification:

“The initial clothing in white is received by faith alone. This is the beginning of Joshua’s justification. But if Joshua is to remain justified — that is, if the garments he has received are not to become re-soiled with his iniquity — he must be faithful. Thus, initial justification is by faith alone; subsequent justifications include obedience.”

And again Rich Lusk says:

“Again, we find the Bible teaching that future justification is according to works. Final justification is to the (faithful) doers of the law (Rom. 2:1ff) and by those good works which make faith complete (Jas. 2:14ff). Justification will not be fully realized until the resurrection.”

In these two quotations we see an explicit denial of the traditional doctrine of justification by faith alone. Therefore, because of the seriousness of this issue in even Protestant circles now. I believe it is important that we look at the biblical texts that are often used to support future justification by works. It is my position that the Bible does not teach a future justification by works. I shall deal with the Bible passages that are appealed to support a future justification by works and I shall demonstrate that none of these passages in fact teach this doctrine that is incompatible with sola fide.

Romans 2:6-8

The first text I will look at is Romans 2:6-8 which reads “ 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Paul is teaching in Romans 2:6-8 that the only way for us to obtain eternal life is by works. Protestants do not actually disagree with this nor is this principle incompatible with justification by faith. This is because in the doctrine of justification by faith we are legally imputed Christ's perfect work by faith alone (Rom. 4:5; 5:19). So we will go to heaven by this works principle. However, this is not our works but Christ's works which are legally imputed to our account (Rom. 5:19). Therefore, this text does not disprove justification by faith alone, but it rather this proves the principle behind justification by faith which is this: that in order to obtain eternal salvation one needs to have fulfilled a works principle.

Romans 2:13

Romans 2 contains another passage that is used to attempt to support a future justification by works, this is in Romans 2:13 which reads “13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” This is an additional passage that expresses the principle in Romans 2:6-8. The principle is this: In order to be righteous one needs to do the Law of God perfectly. This is what Jesus did for us and it is imputed to us by faith alone in Christ Jesus (Rom. 4:5; 5:19). Contextually, this is the most plausible understanding of this text because Paul in Romans 3:9-20 teaches that in light of human sin no one can be justified by works because everyone has failed to follow the law. So if we were to take this passage in the way that some Federal Visionists do then we would end up contradicting Paul's thought in the larger context of Romans; the Federal Visionist interpretation of this text contradicts Paul's thought on the lack of ability of humans to follow God's Law and on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The best explanation of these two texts in Romans 2 is to understand them as a principle that is behind justification by faith alone.

2 Corinthians 5:10

Another text that is mistakenly used to support a future justification by works is 2 Corinthians 5:10 which reads 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” The best way to understand this passage is that it is referring to God's perfect standard of Justice for goodness or good deeds done in the body. The only way we are going to get to heaven is if we are good in our bodies, but we have all failed to do this. So the only option for a sinful person is to have faith in Jesus, so that his goodness is legally imputed to us by faith alone.

Matthew 7:21-23

Now we are going to moving from Paul's Epistles to the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 7:21-23 is one of many sections in Matthew that has been mistakenly thought to be teaching a future justification by works, it reads “21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” This verse is compatible with justification by faith alone and it actually teaches against a future justification by works. These people are condemned by God because they are appealing to their good works so that God will let them into heaven. God's response is that what they are doing is against his “will” and that he never knew them. What is God's “will” for sinners so that they can enter into heaven? God's prescribed “will” for sinners is that they are to have faith in Christ so that they can enter heaven. So far from contradicting justification by faith this verse is compatible with it and it teaches against a future justification by works.

Matthew 12:36-37

Another passage that is used in Matthew to support a future justification by works is Matthew 12:36-37 which reads “36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." The context here is that Jesus is condemning the self-righteous Pharisees. The way Jesus is condemning them is by holding before them a perfect standard of speech which they have failed. The principle behind these passages is the same sort of principle we have seen in the previous passages we have looked at. This principle is that God requires perfect obedience and in this case Jesus is emphasizing perfect obedience in speech. The only person who had perfect speech was Jesus Christ himself and we receive all of his righteousness by faith alone.



Matthew 25:31-46

The last passage we will look at is Matthew 25:31-46 and it reads “31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." These passages are not teaching that one is justified by these good deeds, but rather Jesus is pointing out their good works to demonstrate to them that they have been justified by faith alone. The final judgment has an element which is demonstrative. In other words, on the final day of judgment God will speak of your good works to show that you were imputed Christ righteousness when you had faith in Christ. God will give you evidence that you are believer and he will give others evidence that they are unbelievers. This is what Matthew 25 is teaching.

Conclusion

We have seen no good reason to believe in a future justification by works. This view is incompatible with what Paul teaches on justification by faith alone and it is also incompatible with the Gospel of Grace. When we as believers die we should not fear a future judgment by works because we will be judged by Christ's perfect works. Therefore, on that glorious day God will say to us “well done good and faithful servant, enter into the Joy of your Master”. The only reason why God will say this is because of Jesus, who was a good and faithful servant in our place.

12 comments:

Noah Johnson said...

This post of yours is intriguing. I have some honest questions and do not wish to have a fruitless debate but rather to gain a better understanding of your position.

So first of all, what is the judgment does Christ bring when He comes again with glory to judge the living and the dead?

Revelation 20:11-12
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. [...]And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books,according to what they had done.

That a judgment of the works of the people occurs is without a doubt affirmed by Scripture. I'm probably misunderstanding the phrase "justification by works" but isn't it certain that all are judged according to their deeds and saved or condemned on their account? In the passage you sight from Matt 25, which speaks of Christ's coming in glory to judge, the righteous are deemed righteous on the account of their love for Christ in their acts of care towards the "the least of these".

You write, "These passages are not teaching that one is justified by these good deeds, but rather Jesus is pointing out their good works to demonstrate to them that they have been justified by faith alone. "
But doesn't this simply assume the argument that you are trying to prove? That works have no measure in Christ judgment? An argument which is certainly not clear from that text or its context- the parables of Matt 25:
The 10 Virgins: those who are invited to the wedding feast are those who prepared themselves with oil (elaion) which some argue is Greek play on words for mercy (eleios).
Talents: the servant who did not multiply his investment was thrown into outer darkness
Sheep and goats: the sheep are not praised for their faith, they did not even know that they were serving Christ! again their good works are praised.

In each of these the subjects are judged according to their works after having accepted an offer from the judge. In the parable of the talents the master calls his own servants.

Romans 3:28 speaks specifically against the notion of being justified by works of the Law. I don't think any Christian (save messianic Jews maybe) argues that we are justified on account of the Mosaic law. But many Christians believe and teach that obedience to Christ commands is a necessary element in justification. Do you agree that Paul's subject throughout this text is the Mosaic law and not the laws of Christ?

Faith alone is never affirmed in Scripture but clearly denied in James 2:24 (the only place in the Bible where the words "faith alone" appear!) How can you consider this a Biblical doctrine?

I am not arguing that we are not saved and justified by faith but only against the Protestant tradition of "faith alone" and against any rejection of the final judgment. Your seeming rejection of the doctrine of the final judgment stands in opposition to the parables of Christ who is the bridegroom, the vinedresser, the judge who comes in order to render to each according to their deeds.

I have nothing but respect for you and your writing Alison :D just a lotta questions. My mind is settled in the Orthodox camp and it's hard for me to understand how we are reading the same Bible when we come up with such different understandings. Thank you

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello Noah,

Allison did not write this post, but I did. My name is Nathanael and below have responded to what you have said.

So first of all, what is the judgment does Christ bring when He comes again with glory to judge the living and the dead?

Revelation 20:11-12
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. [...]And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books,according to what they had done.

Response: God judges believers and unbelievers by different books. God judges those who are justified by faith by the book of life and they are written in it because God has eternally decreed that they should be in it. The dead refer to those who are have the resurrection of death (the second death as John calls it) rather than the resurrection of life spoken of earlier in the chapter. So unbelievers are judged by their works and they have all failed to meet God's perfect standard.

That a judgment of the works of the people occurs is without a doubt affirmed by Scripture. I'm probably misunderstanding the phrase "justification by works" but isn't it certain that all are judged according to their deeds and saved or condemned on their account? In the passage you sight from Matt 25, which speaks of Christ's coming in glory to judge, the righteous are deemed righteous on the account of their love for Christ in their acts of care towards the "the least of these".

Response: I affirmed in the blog post that all are judged by works, but those who have been imputed Christ's works can add no other works to their account. So there can be no future works that can be added to those who are imputed by Christ's perfect righteousness. The persons in Matthew 25 righteous works are being listed to show that they were justified by faith all along. The actual good deeds of believers is evidence that they have been imputed Christ' righteousness and hence they are worthy to enter into heaven by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Righteousness here is not being used in a forensic sense, but it is being used to refer to actual fruits of the Spirit that a believer has. In other words, this passage is not teaching justification, it is merely teaching that those who will enter heaven will have generally holy lives that evidences their faith.

But doesn't this simply assume the argument that you are trying to prove? That works have no measure in Christ judgment? An argument which is certainly not clear from that text or its context- the parables of Matt 25:
The 10 Virgins: those who are invited to the wedding feast are those who prepared themselves with oil (elaion) which some argue is Greek play on words for mercy (eleios).
Talents: the servant who did not multiply his investment was thrown into outer darkness
Sheep and goats: the sheep are not praised for their faith, they did not even know that they were serving Christ! again their good works are praised.

Response: I do not think these texts are teaching the doctrine of justification as Paul clearly does in Romans. So I am assuming the doctrine of justification by faith when I read these passages and I believe we should always assume the Gospel of justification by faith when we read any passage. So I assume the truth of this doctrine when I read any scripture because it is so clearly and unavoidably taught in the book of Romans. All I am showing here is that these passages are logically compatible with the Gospel which is clearly taught in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. As for the sheep, talents, and the virgins, all of these passages show is that believers are justified by faith will have fruits in their Christian life to back up their justification by faith alone on the day of judgment and those who claim to have faith, but no fruit these persons were never justified to begin with.

Nathanael Taylor said...

In each of these the subjects are judged according to their works after having accepted an offer from the judge. In the parable of the talents the master calls his own servants.

Response: I am not following your argument here. The premises are need to be clearer and flushed out for me to follow your argument.

Romans 3:28 speaks specifically against the notion of being justified by works of the Law. I don't think any Christian (save messianic Jews maybe) argues that we are justified on account of the Mosaic law. But many Christians believe and teach that obedience to Christ commands is a necessary element in justification. Do you agree that Paul's subject throughout this text is the Mosaic law and not the laws of Christ?

Response: Paul uses “ergou nomou” or works of law for the Gentiles who do not have the Mosaic Law so clearly the phrase works of Law does not mean only the Mosaic Law. the Romans 2:14-15 4 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” I want to take a point from Jonathan Edwards who argued if Paul is not teaching justification by faith alone in these passages then how do we explain Romans 3:27 and others that says this doctrine excludes boasting, but if any good works we can do at all can be added to our justification then we could have the ability to boast. It could go like this “I am righteous because I cooperated with God's grace to produce these works and those who were in hell did not act this way to the grace received as I did.” So there is something intrinsically good about you that makes you go to heaven and another is intrinsically bad about others that sends them to hell. The thing that determines who is going to heaven is you and your good works so you have something to boast about, but of course according to Paul the doctrine of justification by faith prevents this so any doctrine of justification that does not prevent this is wrong according Paul.

Faith alone is never affirmed in Scripture but clearly denied in James 2:24 (the only place in the Bible where the words "faith alone" appear!) How can you consider this a Biblical doctrine?

James 2 is talking about a non-justifying faith, a faith of demons, totally different than what Paul was talking about in Romans 4. Paul's argument in Romans is addressing justification before God; that is to say how is one righteous before God. This is evident by phrases such "acountable to God" (Rom. 3:19), "in his sight" (Rom. 3:20) and "before God" (Rom. 4:2). Whereas James seems to discuss the issue of justification before men or how we know how someone is righteous. This is evident by phrases like "What good is it, my brothers" (Jm. 2:14), James 2:18 "someone will say" (Jm 2:18), and "you foolish person" (Jm. 2:20). The biblical context shows that James and Paul's are using justification in different ways and if they were not then there would be a contradiction in the word of God, even the Catholic scholar Luke Timothy Johnson of Emory university agrees with my conclusions here on James.

Nathanael Taylor said...

The reason why I consider justification by faith alone a biblical doctrine is because the Bible clearly and inescapably teaches it. This is the reason why I am Protestant and not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.
1)The Bible teaches that Grace is only compatible with faith and not works:

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.

2) Justification by faith apart from works:

The Bible out rightly claims that justification is by faith apart from works of law:

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.

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

Nathanael Taylor said...

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.

3) The Justification of the ungodly:

The Bible clearly teaches that God justifies the ungodly:

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,

Obviously someone who is ungodly is not actually righteous and has not done a sufficient amount of works to be right before God. But God legally counts him as righteous when he has faith. Now the East and Rome will be quick to point out that what justify here means is that God spiritually transforms the believer to make him pleasing to God, but the problem is that the Greek word for justify or “dikaioo” never means that. It either can mean to declare righteous someone that is actual righteous or not actually righteous, but legally so. It seems that given this passage that this is a declaration of righteousness on the ungodly thereby suggesting that the latter meaning (legal) is being used here rather than the former (actual). Thus, this word is being used here as a legal declaration in the context of a court room before God (Rom. 4:2).

4) Salvation is by Grace through Faith:

One of those most popular passages for proving sola fide has been Ephesians 2:8-9, it reads:

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.
Christians have been saved, a past reality, by grace through faith and not by works. It could not be any clearer than this. The East and Rome have a hard time arguing that this is referring to only certain works here because salvation as a whole is by faith and grace which is not your own doing, but if we could achieve salvation by any works then it would be our own doing and therefore any works ought to be excluded. Paul in the end seals his argument with saying that because of all this no one can boast, but if this did not rule out all works then someone could boast, but Paul clearly would never intend for us to think that.

Thank you for your time Noah.

God Bless,

NPT

Catz206 said...

Hey Noah,

It is I Allison! I am Catz. Great to hear from you. :)

Noah Johnson said...

Hi Alison!
You're Catz, I can remember that now. Thanks for sending me this post, I'm really enjoying the conversation and look forward to reading your posts :D See ya.

Noah Johnson said...

Sorry Nathaniel for the misunderstanding I just assumed this was Alison's blog because she sent me the link.

I've enjoyed reading your response to my questions. It was clear and well stated. But alas, more questions!

You wrote: Eph 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.Christians have been saved, a past reality, by grace through faith and not by works. It could not be any clearer than this. The East and Rome have a hard time arguing that this is referring to only certain works here because salvation as a whole is by faith and grace which is not your own doing, but if we could achieve salvation by any works then it would be our own doing and therefore any works ought to be excluded."
 
Orthodox Christians do not believe that salvation is by works in addition to faith but rather that faith is only faith when the believer acts in faith. Salvation is not simply a past reality; it's a reality spanning time being accomplished in the past, participated in now and received in the coming judgment. Salvation is "by grace through faith", but what is faith? Is faith mere assent to doctrinal statements from which flow good works as a by-product of faith? Or is faith a gift a God through which we are invited to become His fellow workers? As I stated in my conclusion, my contention is only with salvation by faith alone or, more precisely, that faith is faith and salvific without cooperation in the grace of God through works of love. At the judgment, will Christ ask “Did you believe in me?” or “Did you feed me?”.

So as not to make myself the spokesman of the Orthodox Church I will cite the 1672 Confession of Dositheus, Patriarch of Jerusalem: “We believe no one to be saved without faith. And by faith we mean the right notion that is in us concerning God and divine things, which, working by love, that is to say, by observing the Divine commandments, justifieth us with Christ; and without this (faith) it is impossible to please God." Decree 9

Protestants tend to quote Eph 2:8-9 but Orthodox like to follow verse nine with the concluding thought in verse ten: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Not that we would walk in them but that we should walk in them. Are the works that we should walk in mere evidence of faith or are they the substance of faith? I think that these works, our dying with Christ and obeying His commands are intrinsic to saving faith. They are not something separate from Christ and His righteousness, the righteousness in which we live by faith is the righteousness of Christ. ...

Noah Johnson said...

You wrote: “but those who have been imputed Christ's works can add no other works to their account. So there can be no future works that can be added to those who are imputed by Christ's perfect righteousness. The persons in Matthew 25 righteous works are being listed to show that they were justified by faith all along. The actual good deeds of believers is evidence that they have been imputed Christ' righteousness and hence they are worthy to enter into heaven by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.”
 
Dositheus continues with a rejection of what you seem to be implying here:
“But [the idea] that faith can fulfill the function of a hand that lays hold on the righteousness which is in Christ, and can then apply it unto us for salvation, we know to be far from all Orthodoxy. For faith so understood would be possible in all, and so none could miss salvation, which is obviously false. But on the contrary, we rather believe that it is not the correlative of faith, but the faith which is in us, justifies through works, with Christ.”

The Orthodox do not consider works as something amended to justifying faith nor as a witness to faith but rather faith is our working with and in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not working for salvation but working in salvation through love and solely by the mercy of God. The Christological dogmas concerning the Divine-human nature of Christ speak directly to our life in Christ. Consider the definition of Chalcedon which states that Christ is “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”; our unification with Christ is both a divine and human act in the same way- without confusion, without division, and without separation. Faith, mercy, salvation are 100% divine acts and gifts for us but we cannot exclude the human will and its cooperation with this grace.

We agree that Christ will judge on the basis of whether or not we hold His righteousness. But how do we lay hold of the righteousness of Christ? Is it by belief only or is it by participating in His life through obedience, love, and crucifixion of the flesh?

Nathanael Taylor said...

Hello again Noah,

Sorry Nathaniel for the misunderstanding I just assumed this was Alison's blog because she sent me the link.

Response: It's no problem...really. I understand.

I've enjoyed reading your response to my questions. It was clear and well stated. But alas, more questions!

Response: I have enjoyed this discussion as well.
 
Orthodox Christians do not believe that salvation is by works in addition to faith but rather that faith is only faith when the believer acts in faith. Salvation is not simply a past reality; it's a reality spanning time being accomplished in the past, participated in now and received in the coming judgment. Salvation is "by grace through faith", but what is faith? Is faith mere assent to doctrinal statements from which flow good works as a by-product of faith? Or is faith a gift a God through which we are invited to become His fellow workers? As I stated in my conclusion, my contention is only with salvation by faith alone or, more precisely, that faith is faith and salvific without cooperation in the grace of God through works of love. At the judgment, will Christ ask “Did you believe in me?” or “Did you feed me?”.

Response: I know the Orthodox teaching on justification, I would say in terms of a biblical understanding and categorizations Orthodox confuse faith and works in justification to were they become the indistinguishable. I would say faith is a personal trust in Christ and a believing in certain propositions like Jesus Christ existed. This faith justifies an individual. So it is not mere doctrinal assent because according to James 2 even the demons have proper doctrinal assent, but the problem is they do not trust Jesus Christ for his righteousness. Faith is a gift and it is logically distinguished from works as my arguments have indicated above that have not been responded to and Galatians 3:9-12. The fundamental problem is when we are justified by faith the ungodly are justified and there are no good works involved in our justification (because we are ungodly). Faith is logically prior to good works, so they are logically distinguishable and so I see no good reason to say they are same especially when the Apostle clearly distinguishes them. Christ will say you feed my sheep because you were already clothed with my perfect righteousness.

Protestants tend to quote Eph 2:8-9 but Orthodox like to follow verse nine with the concluding thought in verse ten: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Not that we would walk in them but that we should walk in them. Are the works that we should walk in mere evidence of faith or are they the substance of faith? I think that these works, our dying with Christ and obeying His commands are intrinsic to saving faith. They are not something separate from Christ and His righteousness, the righteousness in which we live by faith is the righteousness of Christ. ...

Response: Works and sanctification follow justification that is what verse 10 is teaching, but it cannot be referring to God's saving action because as I have argued above that is not based on works. Works are a evidence of ones faith and you have not provided any evidence to contrary concerning that.

Nathanael Taylor said...

Dositheus continues with a rejection of what you seem to be implying here:
“But [the idea] that faith can fulfill the function of a hand that lays hold on the righteousness which is in Christ, and can then apply it unto us for salvation, we know to be far from all Orthodoxy. For faith so understood would be possible in all, and so none could miss salvation, which is obviously false. But on the contrary, we rather believe that it is not the correlative of faith, but the faith which is in us, justifies through works, with Christ.”

Response: What Dositheus says matters little to me because I agree with the great Martin Luther who said: "Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
- Martin Luther

I care not what tradition of men say (Matt. 15:1-10) because I like Paul will not and cannot go beyond what scripture (1 Cor. 4:6). I need reason and scripture to convince me. The Gospel is justification by faith alone (Rom. 1:17) and those who reject the Gospel are at risk of being eternally condemned (Galatians 1:1-10).

The Orthodox do not consider works as something amended to justifying faith nor as a witness to faith but rather faith is our working with and in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not working for salvation but working in salvation through love and solely by the mercy of God. The Christological dogmas concerning the Divine-human nature of Christ speak directly to our life in Christ. Consider the definition of Chalcedon which states that Christ is “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”; our unification with Christ is both a divine and human act in the same way- without confusion, without division, and without separation. Faith, mercy, salvation are 100% divine acts and gifts for us but we cannot exclude the human will and its cooperation with this grace.

Response: The human will is included in salvation but in a deterministic fashion. They are distinguishable as are the two natures of Christ. The human will is included in justification and sanctification but in a monergistic sense not a synergistic sense.

We agree that Christ will judge on the basis of whether or not we hold His righteousness. But how do we lay hold of the righteousness of Christ? Is it by belief only or is it by participating in His life through obedience, love, and crucifixion of the flesh?

Response: We lay hold of it by putting our trust in Christ and his righteousness and not our own righteousness (Phil. 3:8-9). We put our trust in a God who justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). I hope you are well.

God Bless,

NPT

Anonymous said...

It's puzzling to see two things here: 1) the term "traditional" applied to the theory of justification "by faith alone" - as Alastair McGrath notes, the underlying theology of "protestant" (and this is misleading in and of itself: for example, Mennonites hold to what is actually the traditional view: justification by faith working through love) is an innovation; further, I am puzzled by these claims about Paul - the main thrust of recent protestant scholarship has been to suggest quite the opposite to what is claimed here - excepting ideological reasons, "new perspectives" on Paul appear to be very much the mainstream. Net net, not only is this historically untenable, its rapidly ceasing to be the mainstream of protestant theology.