Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sola Fide in Gregory of Nyssa

Just so I have heard the sacred record laying blame upon the sons of Benjamin who did not regard the law, but could shoot within a hair's breadth [Judges 20:16], wherein, methinks, the word exhibited their eager pursuit of an idle object, that they were far-darting and dexterous aimers at things that were useless and unsubstantial, but ignorant and regardless of what was manifestly for their benefit. For after what I have quoted, the history goes on to relate what befell them, how, when they had run madly after the iniquity of Sodom, and the people of Israel had taken up arms against them in full force, they were utterly destroyed. And it seems to me to be a kindly thought to warn young archers not to wish to shoot within a hair's-breadth, while they have no eyes for the door of the faith, but rather to drop their idle labor about the incomprehensible, and not to lose the gain that is ready to their hand, which is found by faith alone.

- Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius (Book X), Chapter 1

And so, after this ecstasy which came upon him as a result of these lofty visions, Abraham returned once more to his human frailty: I am, he admits [Genesis 18:27], dust and ashes, mute, inert, incapable of explaining rationally the Godhead that my mind has seen. (And the dust and ashes, I think, symbolizes all that is dead and unfruitful.) Thus this became the norm of faith for all that followed; for in his life we are taught that for those who are advancing in the divine paths there is no other way of drawing near to God than by the intermediary of faith; it is only through faith that the questing soul can unite itself with the incomprehensible Godhead. Abandoning, then, the curiosity of the mind, Abraham, says the text, believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice [Romans 4:3; cf. Genesis 15:6]. And this, says the Apostle, was written not for Abraham but for us, for it is by faith and not knowledge that men are accounted just before God. For knowledge has a kind of market value, accorded to the knower alone. But this is not so of Christian faith. For it is the substance of things to be hoped for [Hebrews 11:1], not of things that are known. We not hope for what we already possess. As the Apostle says, For what a man hath, why doth he hope for? [Romans 8:24].

-Gregory of Nyssa, Against Euonius (Book XII)

And after she has gone about the entire supramundane city by the operation of her mind, and has not recognized her Beloved even among things spiritual and immaterial, then at last she gives up all she has found; for she realizes that what she seeks can be understood only in the very inability to comprehend His essence, and that every intelligible attribute becomes merely a hindrance to those who seek to find him. This is why she says: When I had a little passed by them [Song of Solomon 3:4], I abandoned all creatures and passed by all that is intelligble in creation; and when I gave up every finite mode of comprehension, then it was that I found my Beloved by faith. And I will never let Him go, now that I have found Him, from the grasp of faith, until He comes within my chamber [Song of Solomon 3:4]. For the heart is indeed a chamber to be filled by the divine indwelling -- that is, when it is restored to the state that it had in the beginning.

- Gregory of Nyssa, Commentary on Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 3:4)

34: This done, the serpent was changed back into a rod by which sinners are brought to their senses, and those slackening on the upward and toilsome course of virtue are given rest, the rod of faith supporting them through their high hopes. Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for. [Heb. 11:1]

- Gregory of Nyssa, Contemplation on the Life of Moses, Book 2

Having zealously directed the church's affairs in this fashion before his death, [Gregory] wished to see everyone converted from idolatry to the faith which saves.

- Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Gregory the Wonderworker

Whether faith saves or whether we are saved through faith or await grace through patience, "love believes all things and hopes all things" as the Apostle says [1Cor 13.7].

- Gregory of Nyssa, A Euology for Basil the Great

For if we have learnt what the good alliance is and who is the Commander of these allied troops, let us make a treaty with him, let us join his command, let us make friends with the one who has gained such power. The way to be attached to him is taught by the assembler of this league, the great Apostle, when he says Therefore, since we are justified by faith, let us have peace with God [Romans 5:1], and again, We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were urging through us; we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled with God [2 Corinthians 5:20]. As long as we were by nature children of wrath by doing what is wrong [Ephesians 2:3], we stood in the ranks of those who resist the right hand of the most high [Psalm 77:10/76:11]; but if we lay aside ungodliness and worldly desires, in holy, just and godly living, by making this peace we shall be joined to the true Peace. For so the Apostle says of him, He is himself our peace [Ephesians 2:14].

- Gregory of Nyssa, Homily 8 on Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 3:8) (Hall/Moriarty Translation)

If we have gained knowledge about the enemy against whom we must fight and take up arms, we ought to learn about another part of the text, that is, when to make a treaty of peace. Who is the good commander? He enables me to win favor by peaceful means. Who is the leader of this army? The divinely inspired scriptures clearly depict the battle array of angels belonging to the heavenly army: "There was a multitude of the heavenly host praising God" [Lk 2.13]. Daniel saw a thousand thousands and thousand times ten thousand worshiping him [Dan 7.10]. The prophets testify to this, calling him the Lord of all the armies and Lord of hosts [Ps 23.10]. And to Joshua Nave, the powerful one in battle, he said, "I am the commander of the army [of the Lord]" [Jos 5.14]. If we have understood the assistance we receive in battle and the leader of our allies, let us make a truce with him, fly to his powerful aide and become friends in order to secure his assistance. The great Apostle [Paul] teaches us how to gain intimacy with him and how to be united in friendship saying, "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God" [Rom 5.1]. And, "We are ambassadors for Christ as though God besought you by us [saying], 'Be reconciled to God'" [2Cor 5.20]. As long as our shameful deeds made us sons of wrath [Eph 2.3] we were among those who opposed the right hand of the Most High. The Apostle says of him "He is our peace" [Eph 2.14], words which form the end and summation of all temporal reality. We who had once been God's adversaries have learned to accomplish all things in time in order to establish peace with ourselves and with him. If the virtues truly belong to the army of peace with which we must be associated, it would not be outside the sense of the text which refers the name of every virtue to the Lord of virtues.

- Gregory of Nyssa, Homily 8 on Ecclesiastes

Note well: these are expressions of Sola Fide in Gregory of Nyssa. However, I cannot ensure that Gregory of Nyssa doesn't somewhere else undermine the position laid out above.

What about the places where Gregory of Nyssa speaks to the relation of faith and works?

By dividing the virtues into different types the Apostle has made each type of virtue into the particular piece of armor for each of the crucial moments in our lives. Entwining justice with faith and plaiting them together he constructs with them the hoplite's breastplate, protecting the soldier’s body thoroughly and securely with them both. One piece of armor separated from another cannot by itself be a protection for the one who handles it. Faith without the works of justice is not enough to save one from death, nor again is the justice of one's life a guarantee of salvation if it is on its own, divorced from faith.

- Gregory of Nyssa, Homily 8 on Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

This, as I understand it, is the Good that truly is, the thing Solomon sought to see, which people will do under the sun throughout all the number of the days of their life. This seems to me to be none other than the work of faith, the performance of which is common to all, available on equal terms to those who wish for it, lasting in full strength continuously throughout life. This is the good work, which I pray may be done in us too, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. AMEN.

- Gregory of Nyssa, Homily 2 on Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 2:3)

198. That was the outward appearance of the ornament, and this is its meaning: The shield-like ornaments hanging down from both shoulders symbolize the two-fold nature of our armor against the Adversary. Therefore, as I said a short time ago, since the life of virtue is lived in a two-fold way -- by faith and a good conscience in life -- we are made safe with respect to both by the shield's protection. We remain unwounded by the enemy's darts, by being armed with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left [2 Corinthians 6:7].

- Gregory of Nyssa, Contemplation on the Life of Moses (Malherbe/Ferguson translation)

The golden bells alternating with the tassels stand for the brilliance of our good works. Perfect virtue consists indeed of two things, having faith in God and living our lives according to our conscience. Thus the great Paul fastens bells and tassels to the garment of Timothy when he says that he must have faith and a good conscience [1 Timothy 1:19]. Faith then, should sound strong and clear in its preaching of the Trinity; and our lives should imitate the form of the pomegranate. For on the outside it is covered with a hard and bitter rind which is inedible; but on the inside the brightness and regularity of its fruit makes [sic] it very pleasant to see and even more pleasant to taste. So too, the life of wisdom is bitter and difficult to the senses, but full of good expectations when it has produced fruit in due season. For when the gardener opens the pomegranate of our lives in due time and reveals the beauty hidden there, sweet indeed will be the taste of that fruit to those who share in it. The divine Apostle somewhere says: All chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring with it joy, but sorry (and so it seems for those who first come in contact with the pomegranate): but afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of justice [Hebrews 12:11], that is, the sweetness of spiritual nourishment.

- Gregory of Nyssa, Contemplation on the Life of Moses (Daniélou/Musurillo translation)

This was the way this ornament was made. And its meaning is as follows. The two bosses suspended from the shoulders symbolize the double aspect of our armor against the adversary. For, as we said earlier, virtue works in two ways, by faith and by a life lived according to one's conscience; in this way we are protected on both sides by the bulwark of the bosses and remain untouched by the darts of the enemy, by the armor of justice on the right hand and the left [2 Corinthians 6:7].

- Gregory of Nyssa, Contemplation on the Life of Moses (Daniélou/Musurillo translation)

Apparently Inconsistent Remarks in Gregory of Nyssa

But if some one says that such a life [of an infant dying in infancy] does not only exist, but exists as one of the good ones, and that God gives, though He does not repay, what is good to such, we may ask what sort of reason he advances for this partiality; how is justice apparent in such a view; how will he prove his idea in concordance with the utterances in the Gospels? There (the Master) says, the acquisition of the Kingdom comes to those who are deemed worthy of it, as a matter of exchange. "When you have done such and such things, then it is right that you get the Kingdom as a reward." But in this case there is no act of doing or of willing beforehand, and so what occasion is there for saying that these will receive from God any expected recompense?

- Gregory of Nyssa, On Infants' Early Deaths

Let us suppose two persons suffering from an affection of the eyes; and that the one surrenders himself most diligently to the process of being cured, and undergoes all that Medicine can apply to him, however painful it may be; and that the other indulges without restraint in baths and wine-drinking, and listens to no advice whatever of his doctor as to the healing of his eyes. Well, when we look to the end of each of these we say that each duly receives in requital the fruits of his choice, the one in deprivation of the light, the other in its enjoyment; by a misuse of the word we do actually call that which necessarily follows, a recompense. We may speak, then, in this way also as regards this question of the infants: we may say that the enjoyment of that future life does indeed belong of right to the human being, but that, seeing the plague of ignorance has seized almost all now living in the flesh, he who has purged himself of it by means of the necessary courses of treatment receives the due reward of his diligence, when he enters on the life that is truly natural; while he who refuses Virtue's purgatives and renders that plague of ignorance, through the pleasures he has been entrapped by, difficult in his case to cure, gets himself into an unnatural state, and so is estranged from the truly natural life, and has no share in the existence which of right belongs to us and is congenial to us.

- Gregory of Nyssa, On Infants' Early Deaths

You'll notice in the two passages above there is a strong emphasis on personal desert.

26 comments:

Rhology said...

Interestingly, if he does elsewhere undermine it, it's further illustration of the necessity and correctness of Sola Scriptura.

Paul Hoffer said...

Actually, it would show the necessity of some folks correcting their definition of "faith."

natamllc said...

Let us young archers, then, take heed to Gregory, "with crossed eyes", first pull back the bow and shoot!

If it gets to the target, then we both know, it was by God's gracious power, it hit!

Psa 132:13 For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place:
Psa 132:14 "This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
Psa 132:15 I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread.
Psa 132:16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.
Psa 132:17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
Psa 132:18 His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine."

Rhology said...

Paul,

Why? On your view, Gregory is an authority when convenient, cited when convenience permits. When he disagrees with your position, he's alluvasudden "an individual theologian expressing private opinion". Don't be disingenuous, I prithee.

Peace,
Rhology

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Rhology, I made the comment in passing for primarily because St. Gregory of Nyssa did not believe in anything that could come close to sola fide. Consider for instance:

“By dividing the virtues into different types the Apostle [Paul] has made each particular piece of armour for each of the crucial moments in our lives. Entwining justice with faith and plaiting them together he constructs the hoplite’s breastplate, protecting the soldier’s body thoroughly and securely with them both. One piece of armour separated from another cannot by itself be a protection for the one who handles it. Faith without the works of justice is not enough to save one from death, nor again is the justice of one’s life a guarantee of salvation if it is on its own, divorced from faith.” (Homily 8 on Ecclesiastes, 433.16)

Additionally, I could fill the comment section with many more quotations from the venerable bishop’s writings discussing the salvific nature of the sacraments, which is indicative of “Catholic” system that requires some level of cooperation with grace which obviously would be at odds with what I understand to be underlying fundamental principle of sola fide as Mr. Fan is using the term.

To be fair, I perhaps do not have the same level of understanding of sola fide that you and Mr. Fan have, but I believe that the above notions found in St. Gregory’s writings are so antithetical to the notion of sola fide, that St. Gregory would have to be schizophrenic to be an adherent of both theological traditions.

Actually, I am enjoying reading St. Gregory of Nyssa's writings right now in between work and last minute packing for Philmont. Despite Mr. Fan's suggestions to contrary, I have yet to see anything in his writings or from the witness of his life that proves him to be anything other than an orthodox Catholic bishop.

God bless!

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Hoffer:

"Hi Rhology, I made the comment in passing for primarily because St. Gregory of Nyssa did not believe in anything that could come close to sola fide."

Well, as shown in the post, Mr. Hoffer, you're wrong.

As for his comment about "faith without the works of justice" ... that is readily viewed as a statement about the necessity of lively faith as contrasted with dead faith.

"To be fair, I perhaps do not have the same level of understanding of sola fide that you and Mr. Fan have"

If you think that dead faith "qualifies" as faith in sola fide, then yes you do not have the same level of understanding.

"I have yet to see anything in his writings ... that proves him to be anything other than an orthodox Catholic bishop"

a) The issue is not whether Gregory of Nyssa was "orthodox" or even whether he was "Orthodox."

b) The issue is not whether Gregory was part of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

c) The question is whether the evidence suggests that Gregory held the same views as modern Roman Catholicism.

There is some powerful evidence that Gregory did not, but sometimes what will "prove" is a factor of prejudice of the audient. We can only present the evidence, Mr. Hoffer, and hope that you will set aside your prejudices in favor of a balanced look at Gregory - a man who does not fully agree with either of us.

natamllc said...

Mr. Hoffer,

I too would zero in on this portion of your responses:

Hoffer: "....“By dividing the virtues into different types the Apostle [Paul] has made each particular piece of armour for each of the crucial moments in our lives....". I emphasize: [in "our" lives].

Don't you have the premise of Faith backwards?

The purpose for Faith, Hope and Love in "our" lives is for the edification of the Church Christ died for and according to the text, in that instance, its use is to stand "against", not stand "with" those who oppose God.

Unfortunately for us, we are all in here together, born of women and the Faith's application here is never for our own purpose but wisely standing against the purposes against God. Faith is the substance of things "hoped" for and the evidence of things "not seen", not, "seen".

No one of us has seen God at any time. By what God gives, the Faith once delivered to the Saints, the Saints are equipped to stand against the wiles of the devils working through those without His Faith who stand against and attack those who stand with Faith for the purposes of God in the world where not all men have Faith.

So, I would again re-iterate the iteration that your premise, in my view, seems wrong and off the True Foundation of Faith, Who is Christ, for Whom we should stand for and by so "doing", stand against the wiles of those unwittingly used by evil unseen forces as well.

No one truly stands against an unseen force of evil without first receiving the Faith of God, Christ Himself, to stand against it.

You could receive today His Faith without preconceived notions about it, if it is yours to receive?

Rhology said...

Paul,

What you're missing is what I'm saying.
I'm GRANTING, for the sake of argument, your thesis, that a man who could say, "Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for," later turned around and said something like "Faith without the works of justice is not enough to save one from death, nor again is the justice of one’s life a guarantee of salvation if it is on its own, divorced from faith". Further, I'm assuming for the sake of argument that he didn't believe the Reformed sola fide. Yet he talked OTHER TIMES like he did.

And then you cite him as an authority, when convenient. And then when INconvenient, other times, you brush off his discomfiting statements with a "well, he's just a private theologian expressing a personal opinion", like you do for everyone. And this man, granting YOUR understanding of the citations YOU cite, couldn't get it straight, garbled what he meant, said contradictory things.

This is why we take our only repair in Scripture, which is not garbled, which does not contradict, etc. It's why I only smile when RCCs quote CFs and such; if you're not bolstering one of the parts of my position, you're proving the other. Take two of these and call me in the morning.

It's good to be a conservative Protestant, I have to say.

Peace,
Rhology

Turretinfan said...

Which reminds me of a point I meant to make above.

It's quite possible that the church fathers could be inconsistent, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Augustine's "Retractions" are a great example of intentional inconsistency.

The unintentional inconsistency is harder to pin down. Folks today who are labeled "Arminians" often hold to an inconsistent view of sola fide. Some Romanist apologists/proselytizers use this to their advantage in suggesting that Rome's views aren't so different after all (to the unwary "Protestant").

Finally, there is a third category of merely perceived inconsistency, which again has two parts.

The first part is the kind I noted above, where Gregory's comment about lively faith is mistakenly thought to be a denial of sola fide rather than an affirmation of it.

The second kind would be something like a father affirming both free will and predestination due to an underlying position of compatibilism. An incompatibilist would see this as a contradiction, but - in fact - it is consistent.

-TurretinFan

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Mr. Fan, Thank you for discoursing with me. I guess what the problem here is how one defines "alone." I believe that "faith" works in conjunction with the virtues of hope and love:

1 Cor 13:2 “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

1 Cor 13:13 “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Gal 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.”

1 John 3:23-24 “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.”

This is the Catholic understanding of "faith."

What I object to is the fact that Protestant teaching separates faith and works. In a number of places in his writings, St. Gregory talks about how our faith is fed and grows as a result of good works. Thus, our works must matter to God. And given what the Word of God teaches us at Matt. Chapter 25, it is certain our salvation in some way relies upon the good works we perform in faith.

Sola fide, at least how I see most Protestants understand it (I have not studied your view) emphasizes the instant that you get saved. Because of their fear that they may seem too "papist" for some, they almost totally ignore the life a Christian is to live afterwards since it does not have significance in one's salvation. While Scripture teaches us that our works do matter, but Sola Fide denies this.

I realize that what I am talking about is perhaps argues from the extremes, but that is what Protestants usually do when they exaggerate how Catholics view works. However, if you look at my comments over the years on the net, you will see that I tend to believe that how Catholics and Protestants actually view faith/justification is much closer in agreement than many would acknowledge. How is that for being balanced?

As far as whether St. Gregory of Nyssa held to everything that the modern Catholic Church now holds, you know that we Catholics do not require that to claim him as one of our saints. It is enough for us that this holy and apostolic bishop of the Church followed in the footsteps of those before him and could authoritatively interpret Scripture that at once "narrates a fact and sets forth a mystery," that he theologized in the manner of the Apostles, not of Aristotle or Plato, Luther or Calvin, and that he faithfully guarded the deposit of faith upon which the Church is built.

God bless!

Turretinfan said...

"As far as whether St. Gregory of Nyssa held to everything that the modern Catholic Church now holds, you know that we Catholics do not require that to claim him as one of our saints."

If you did make such a requirement, you wouldn't have any saints among the early church fathers.

"This is the Catholic understanding of 'faith.'"

The Roman view on "faith" is rather complex. But, I don't want to turn this comment box into a debate on what the Roman position is and is not.

natamllc said...

TF,

to address Mr. Hoffer myself as I did direct my further remarks to him, and heeding your last admonition not to turn this combox into a debate of this sort: "I don't want to turn this comment box into a debate on what the Roman position is and is not.", I would venture a thrust at Mr. Hoffer again?


After reading this Mr. Hoffer, "....While Scripture teaches us that our works do matter, but Sola Fide denies this....", I would ask you if you see the differences in the meaning of "works" as you see a Protestant, a protester, might see the meaning with the meaning you clearly have in mind, the works of the Catholic?

I would ask you to consider these verses of Psalm 15 cited below and use those words as the basis for defining the meanings, the Protestant meaning and the modern day RCC meaning:::>

Psa 15:1 A Psalm of David. O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
Psa 15:2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;
Psa 15:3 who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
Psa 15:4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
Psa 15:5 who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

I would state that there is a similar or even, I might add, a stronger assertion that can be made here about Protestants and Catholics today, that the sheep of His pasture are indeed looking to Their Shepherd to lead them beside still waters and to eat from green pastures as this Psalm 15 indicates? Would you agree that when you die you want to pass to that dwelling place, settling in to an Eternal abode, that tabernacle being put over for the reader to understand is available through the "works" of right, not wrong as Psalm 15 teaches?

Anonymous said...

What about Solo Presdestination? Are you WISELY abandinning Calvinism?

The Dude said...

I do not follow that since Gregory says faith alone in 2 quotes, let alone the other 2 where he just says faith, he means the Reformation understanding of sola fide (unless by "expressions", you mean some type of precursor in the trajectory to full-orbed sola fide). This would also go to the inconsistency question - maybe he's inconsistent, or maybe he has a different view of the meaning behind his usage of the term faith that makes sense out of all his statements.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Dude:

a) What do you think "full-orbed sola fide" includes?

b) The fact, as far as I can see it, is that on this point Gregory of Nyssa aligns with the Reformed churches.

c) However, of course, it would be nice if Gregory had given a more detailed discussion on justification or had provided a treatise on the subject. We have to live, however, with what we have received from him.

d) And, of course, if you or anyone else comes out with evidence that requires us to view Gregory of Nyssa differently than we currently do, that's fine.

Turretinfan said...

Anonymous:

a) There's no such thing as "solo predestination"

b) Gregory of Nyssa is an interesting study on the Calvinism/Arminianism issue

c) I do plan to consider that topic at some point, although it is not at the top of the list

d) Some of my Arminian friends are pretty sure he has their view of free will, and from a few excerpts they've posted, I can see why they think that

natamllc said...

TF,

regarding this point to another that you comment on above I speculate this idea about why he did not treat justification as much as faith in his writings:

TF: "....c) However, of course, it would be nice if Gregory had given a more detailed discussion on justification or had provided a treatise on the subject. We have to live, however, with what we have received from him....".

In consideration of the "orb" of things of that particular time, Gregory's, and the debates of that day he must have been in with others with what was available to him in exchanging the aspects of Truth to the other persons and being knowledgeable of other's writings, would it be fair to say that this might be a reasoned cause for why Gregory didn't write so much on the subject of "justification" as he does on "faith". It might be that he felt others work dealing with it developed his thinking better so there was no need to treat that in his work, that particular portion of the "orb" or "whole" counsel of God so as not to spend the time developing it himself in his body of writings, rather, relying upon the work of others to make the case for justification instead?

Is it your opinion that there are others that you know of of that circle of minds of that era who develop the Truth of justification properly enough, for him, that in his judgment he would focus more on Faith than Justification?

It seems to me, having a very limited knowledge of these minds, his and others of that era myself, their writings, the trajectory his mind was going is indicative of his own judgment that he had a fair understanding of the place Justification has in the sum of Eternal Life with Faith as a basis for the Faith given over to the Saints, as a gift from God and not as something Saints have to work on to merit access to the Father by?

In your mind would you say that that's a fair assumption on my part to the point you make that I cite above?

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Natamllc:

Psalm 15 "Conserva me, Domine" is one of my favorites, but I forgot initially that Protestants number the Psalms differently. Moreover, I can not give the modern Protestant understanding of Psalm 14/15 as I have read a variety of views. Without knowing which one you adhere to, I would be guessing, and I would rather not guess wrong.

Rather than giving you a discourse on Catholic teaching, I will answer your query by referring you to the Psalms themselves.

Again one must read the Psalms in context with the rest of Scripture. There is nothing that the psalmist says here that is exactly what Catholic teaching is. Note at 13:4/14:4 how the corrupt are "evildoers" precisely because they "DO NOT CALL ON THE LORD". What the Psalmist is recognizing is the freedom that each man has, and if he does not exercise his freedom in God's service, he will remain an evildoer! God is the source and the initiator of righteousness in man, but man participates by asking God for his intervention by, as the Psalmist says, "calling on the Lord".

Psalm 14:4 (your Psalm 15:4)references that God will honor those "who fear the Lord." Psalm 15 (your Psalm 16) tells us that those who choose the Lord as his portion and his cup will be instructed and shown the path of life. However, we participate because we still have to walk that path.

Does Catholic teaching as I understand it differ from what you understand it to be?

Blessings to you and your family!

Turretinfan said...

I don't speak for NatAmLLC, of course, but I'd take issue with one of your claims regarding the Psalm.

In fact, the evildoer does not call upon the name of the Lord because of the wicked state of his heart, as the Lord taught. The deeds show the heart, they do not cause it to be evil.

natamllc said...

Mr. Hoffer,

thank you for your courteous reply. I guess it would be pride in me to think out loud now and say that you are fortunate I was a Catholic boy first, so, with some deeper reflection, I can see whereon your logic comes from.

As for your question at the end. Yes, what you put over in this combox, though sane and logical in it's device, isn't anything like the Faith Once delivered to the Saints for which I rise to defend its service and witness in the world.

You made mention here of this:

"....What the Psalmist is recognizing is the freedom that each man has, and if he does not exercise his freedom in God's service, he will remain an evildoer!..."

I would, contrary to that, say just the opposite. I would say that the Psalmist, seeing man's freedoms, is warning each man of his freedoms sharing with him his only hope to be set free from them is God's service to them, to you and to me not our service to Him. You are right in the fact that we do have a service to God. It is a service TF touched on in making the distinctions with you about dead and living Faiths. There is dead faith in this world. There is also a Living Faith, which is "not" of this world at war with the faith in this world. The Living is at war with the dead. Those predestined and foreordained to Living Faith come alive even when they are dead. Those that have not been given His Faith, though they have faith in this world, are dead and their faith is dead faith nevertheless.

Let me use a bit of logic and ask you a question or two and see how far both you and TF will go with this line of inquiry? TF moderates what goes on in here and it is his right to exercise control of our dialogue.

First, using your premise of freedom, let me ask, "if God gives you freedom, as you suggest and indicate, does God "take" that freedom away for you"?

Second, again, using your premise of freedom, let me ask, "if you agree with yourself, that you have freedom, when exercised, will its exercise thereof be doing evil"?

I hope you understand the questions?

Again, thank you for your courtesy!

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Mr. Fan:

I never said otherwise. Man can not "call on the Lord" at all unless God first spurs him to do so through grace. However, man does have a choice once God does first talk to Him to accept or respond to God's grace, otherwise it would not be "grace". As Job says, [The wicked] say to God, "Depart from us! We do not desire knowledge of your ways." (Job 21:14)

The Dude said...

Hi TF,
a) Well I would say the formulations made in the various Lutheran/Anglican/Reformed confessions and expounded upon by its heirs. Or if you want details about the debates, discussions, and development of the doctrine, many secondary works touch on that such as McGrath's, Oberman's, and the like. What I mean is that "sola fide" cannot be just said to mean "faith alone" and that's it. "Faith" has a meaning and particular connotations to certain parties. For instance, you might be aware of some Protestant apologists using Aquinas' commentary on Galatians where he uses "sola fide". Now, really, do you think Aquinas could be held to subscribe to a Reformed understanding of sola fide in any meaningful sense? And do you really think he was just being inconsistent here? Or maybe he meant something different with his usage of "faith"?

b) As for aligning with the Reformed understanding of sola fide, perhaps, though I and apparently Paul do not see anything here that would strike me as a red flag against Tridentine soteriology. Would I say Gregory was a Tridentine Catholic though? No, that's anachronistic. But perhaps a better question would be do his thoughts seem to be more compatible/anticipatory with a synergistic framework (more inline with an RC/EO view) or monergistic framework (more inline with a Reformed sola fidean view)?

c) Absolutely. Though he didn't write a treatise on justification, it would be helpful to see what he wrote on things like baptism or grace or the will. Though he didn't write a systematic treatise on sanctification, it might be helpful to see what he wrote on things like charity, penance, loss of salvation, bearing fruit. Just because he didn't write explicitly on justification or the atonement, other strains of his thought might inform what a logical stance of his could be.

d) Sure, and I appreciate the time and effort you are putting into the research, not trying to hide anything.

Turretinfan said...

As to (a), I do reject McGrath's claims about the historicity of sola fide. How we should treat Aquinas' comments is an interesting issue, but not one that I'm going to handle here.

As to (b), what is interesting is that today Rome seems to have partly come around to seeing things Luther's way (link) That may make Sola Fide less of a helpful discriminator. The synergism issue is an interesting one. That may be an issue where Gregory leans away from the Reformed position (as does the Arminian position). Your willingness to concede that he does not hold the Tridentine views of Rome is fine and largely renders the rest of the discussion moot.

c) Yes, there are interesting things in other writings of Gregory of Nyssa, and I've been trying to update the post above as I find other things that seem to have some bearing on the issue.

d) Thanks!

Turretinfan said...

Mr Hoffer:

"I never said otherwise."

You put the cart before the horse, reversing the correct order.

"Man [cannot] 'call on the Lord' at all unless God first spurs him to do so through grace."

Not just spurs him to do so - draws him. That's what Scripture says.

Joh 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

"However, man does have a choice once God does first talk to Him to accept or respond to God's grace, otherwise it would not be 'grace'."

a) Grace is unmerited favor. The way to undermine grace is either to deny that it is favor or to mix human merit with it.

b) Scripture says that all that the Father gives the son will come to him.

John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

"As Job says, [The wicked] say to God, "Depart from us! We do not desire knowledge of your ways." (Job 21:14) "

Job is affirming the same thing that Paul the Apostle taught:

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

natamllc said...

TF,

In a question I asked above, that I will cite again below these remarks, because it is a long one, I came across an interesting citation of a good friend of Gregory of Nyssa, "Gregory of Nazianzus" (329-89) in a book I am just now starting to read, "Justification, Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine", by my "internet" acquaintance and friend, Dr. J.V. Fesko, that lends to my inquiry that Gregory of Nyssa had a sense of God's Right and man's wrong and the necessity of a balanced life guided by "sola Fide":

my question:

"....In consideration of the "orb" of things of that particular time, Gregory's, and the debates of that day he must have been in with others with what was available to him in exchanging the aspects of Truth to the other persons and being knowledgeable of other's writings, would it be fair to say that this might be a reasoned cause for why Gregory didn't write so much on the subject of "justification" as he does on "faith". It might be that he felt others work dealing with it developed his thinking better so there was no need to treat that in his work, that particular portion of the "orb" or "whole" counsel of God so as not to spend the time developing it himself in his body of writings, rather, relying upon the work of others to make the case for justification instead?...".

Gregory of Nazianzus' comment, as placed in this portion of Dr. J.V. Fesko's book on Justification, pg. 8:


"....In addition to the recognition of the meaning of "justify", we also find scattered throughtout patristic literature the term placed in antithesis with the term "condemn". For example, Gregory of Nazianzus (329-89) writes: "For where sin abounded Grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more does the Passion of Christ justify us?"

In terms of several of the constituent elements of the doctrine of justification, one can also find the ideas that justification is the forgiveness of sins, involves the imputation of righteousness, and that it is by faith alone....".

What seems to square is that "sola fide" was and is a major part of Salvation, then and now!

Turretinfan said...

While we may want to get confirmation by looking at Gregory of Nyssas's friends and colleagues, I've tried to focus my efforts here on understanding (as best we can) what Gregory of Nyssa himself taught. Of course, the teachings of his friends do provide a greater context in which to view his comments.