Friday, May 04, 2012

Bryan Cross on Trent and 1 Clement

Bryan Cross wrote:
The Tridentine bishops were quite aware of 1 Clement, and did not consider, for example, Canon 9 or Canon 24 (of Session 6) to be contrary to St. Clement’s teaching on justification.
I have asked Bryan what his evidence of this is.  My guess is that he just made this up. After all, the council of Trent ended 1563, and the discovery of the text of 1 Clement was made in 1627, when Cyril Lucar gave Codex Alexandrinus to Charles I (see Thomas Herron's, "Clement and the Early Church of Rome," p. 4).

If Bryan provides some evidence to me, I'll happily post it up here, so that the reader can compare it to what Herron says.

I can't say what Bryan imagines in his own head, only that I'm not aware of any factual basis for his assertion.  A lot of folks in Rome's communion imagine that the Tridentine fathers were eminent scholars who were intimately familiar with the fathers and were basing their views on a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of those works.  That wasn't the case. 


 UPDATE: Bryan responded:
My mistake. I was going from memory. It was St. Hilary (along with some other Church Fathers) who was discussed during the Sixth Session. The point still stands, however, that the Tridentine bishops were well aware of Church Fathers who wrote about justification by faith.

So, the point wasn't really about the Tridentine Fathers thinking that 1 Clement was consistent with their teaching? Interesting.  But what about the new claim?

Jedin states:
The Carmelite Vincent de Leone put the Fathers on their guard against a condemnation of the sola fide formula without supplementing it with an accurate explanation of its meaning, on the ground that it is also found, though in another sense, in the writings of many Fathers, for instance in those of St. Hilary of Poitiers, and in those of some other Catholic theologians.
Hubert Jedin, A History of the Council of Trent, Volume 2, p. 245.

Is that the basis for Bryan's statement: “The point still stands, however, that the Tridentine bishops were well aware of Church Fathers who wrote about justification by faith”? Or is there something that shows a greater discussion and/or awareness on the part of the Tridentine fathers than that?  I have asked Bryan.  We will have to see what he's basing his new statement on.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Aquinas on Subordinate Authority

For Aquinas, the Scriptures have a uniquely authoritative place, as we've discussed elsewhere.  However, one of the key points on authority is the question of the idea of subordinate authority.  Aquinas does seem to place limits on papal power, but does Aquinas acknowledge that a subordinate authority can be disobeyed when higher law requires?

Thomas Aquinas indicates:
Objection 5. Further, religious are bound to obey their prelates. Now a prelate sometimes commands either all in general, or someone in particular, to tell him if they know of anything that requires correction. Therefore it would seem that they are bound to tell them this, even before any secret admonition. Therefore the precept does not require secret admonition before public denunciation.


Reply to Objection 5. A prelate is not to be obeyed contrary to a Divine precept, according to Acts 5:29: "We ought to obey God rather then men." Therefore when a prelate commands anyone to tell him anything that he knows to need correction, the command rightly understood supports the safeguarding of the order of fraternal correction, whether the command be addressed to all in general, or to some particular individual. If, on the other hand, a prelate were to issue a command in express opposition to this order instituted by Our Lord, both would sin, the one commanding, and the one obeying him, as disobeying Our Lord's command. Consequently he ought not to be obeyed, because a prelate is not the judge of secret things, but God alone is, wherefore he has no power to command anything in respect of hidden matters, except in so far as they are made known through certain signs, as by ill-repute or suspicion; in which cases a prelate can command just as a judge, whether secular or ecclesiastical, can bind a man under oath to tell the truth.
Latin Text:
Praeterea, religiosi tenentur suis praelatis obedire. Sed quandoque praelati praecipiunt, vel communiter omnibus vel alicui specialiter, ut si quid scit corrigendum, ei dicatur. Ergo videtur quod teneantur ei dicere etiam ante secretam admonitionem. Non ergo est de necessitate praecepti ut secreta admonitio praecedat publicam denuntiationem.


Ad quintum dicendum quod praelato non est obediendum contra praeceptum divinum, secundum illud Act. V, obedire oportet Deo magis quam hominibus. Et ideo quando praelatus praecipit ut sibi dicatur quod quis sciverit corrigendum, intelligendum est praeceptum sane, salvo ordine correctionis fraternae, sive praeceptum fiat communiter ad omnes, sive ad aliquem specialiter. Sed si praelatus expresse praeciperet contra hunc ordinem a domino constitutum, et ipse peccaret praecipiens et ei obediens, quasi contra praeceptum domini agens, unde non esset ei obediendum. Quia praelatus non est iudex occultorum, sed solus Deus, unde non habet potestatem praecipiendi aliquid super occultis nisi inquantum per aliqua indicia manifestantur, puta per infamiam vel aliquas suspiciones; in quibus casibus potest praelatus praecipere eodem modo sicut et iudex saecularis vel ecclesiasticus potest exigere iuramentum de veritate dicenda.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Section Part, Question 33, Article 7, Objection/Answer 5 (Latin text)

Notice that Thomas discusses the obedience of a religious person to their prelate. Thomas is distinguishing here between a person in their secular role - in which they owe obedience to princes - and their religious role - in which they owe obedience to prelates. Thomas indicates that the obedience to the prelate is to be subordinate to their obedience to God. While Thomas does not develop this, employing such subordinate authority requires the religious person to interpret the Word of God and to judge whether obedience to the prelate conflicts with obedience to God.

Thomas provides a similar example in the case of human laws: 
But one may not be subject to a power in two ways. One may not be subject to a power in one way because one is absolutely free from subjection to the power.  And so those belonging to one political community or kingdom are not subject to the laws of the ruler of another political community or kingdom, since such persons are not subject to that ruler's dominion.  One may not be subject to a power in a second way insofar as one is ruled by a higher law. For example, a person subject to a proconsul ought to be ruled by the proconsul's commands but not regarding matters from which the emperor exempted the person.  For regarding the latter, a person directed by a higher command is not bound by the command of an inferior power. And so those absolutely subject to the law may not be bound by the law regarding matters about which they are ruled by a higher law.

Treatise on Law (in Summa Theologica), On the Power of Human Laws (ST Q 96), Fifth Article, Answer (Richard J. Regan, translator)

And Thomas seems to draw a close parallel between secular government and church government:
Sometimes the inferior power emanates in its totality from the superior, in which case the entire potence of the former is founded upon the presence of the latter, so that obedience is due to the higher at all times and without exceptions. Such is the superiority of the Emperor's power over that of the the Proconsul [quoted from St. Augustine]; such that of the Pope over all spiritual powers in the in the Church, since the ecclesiastical hierarchies are ordained and disposed by him, and his power is in some manner the foundation of the Church as it appears from Matthew 16. Hence we are required in all these things to obey him rather than the bishop or archbishop and to him the monk owes obedience in preference to his abbot. But two powers may be such that both arise from a third and supreme authority, and their relative rank then depends upon the will of this uppermost power. When this is the case, either one of the two subordinate authorities controls the other only in those matters in which its superiority has been recognized by the uppermost power.  Of such nature is the authority exercised by rulers, by bishops, archbishops, etc., over their subjects, for all of them have received it from the Pope and with it the conditions and limitations of its use.

II Sent. 44, explanation of the text (as provided in "The Political Ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas," p. xxxv, Dino Bigongiari, ed.)

- TurretinFan

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ and John Calvin

There is not any doubt that Calvin taught that we are justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ (see Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 13, and Book 4, Chapter 14).  Moreover, in general it seems that most Reformed historians conclude with Francis Turretin that Calvin taught that specifically the active obedience of Christ, and not only his passive obedience, is imputed to believers.

Nevertheless, since the question of whether Calvin taught that the active obedience of Christ is imputed to believers, I thought I would provide a link to Cornelius Venema's careful treatment of the matter (link to pdf), in contrast to certain rash treatments of the matter that exist.

The very short answer is that the "active/passive" distinction is a later development, but Calvin's doctrine with respect to imputation is more consistent with the imputation of active obedience, because he distinguishes between imputation of righteousness and forgiveness of sins, and because he treats all of Christ's obedience as indispensable.

- TurretinFan

Steve Rays' Reasons

Steve Ray, now a Roman Catholic, formerly a Protestant congregant attempted to answer some questions about why he decided to trust the Papal see:
I explained my reasons for converting to the Catholic Church in my book Crossing the Tiber and on my Conversion CD. Here I provide a few of the quotations that had an impact on my decision. It is far from a complete list.
In fairness to Steve, this particular post is not going to deal with the particular sample quotations - and even the quotations may not have been the complete reason. The point of this point is to address some of the generalities.
As an Evangelical Protestant, echoing the words of Baptist Preacher Charles H. Spurgeon, I cared about what the Holy Spirit revealed to me, but had little regard for what he had revealed to others, especially those in the first centuries--some who knew the apostles personally.

With all due respect, now that Steve is Roman Catholic he STILL cannot have much regard for what the Holy Spirit revealed to other men: Steve is bound by dogma to accept the declarations of his church without regard to whether they were taught by the fathers. Steve has turned over his judgment to the truth, he has not gained liberty to evaluate the fathers freely.

Most curious is his "some who knew the apostles personally." There are no extant writings of Christians that are positively attributable to people who knew the apostles personally. There are the "Epistle of Barnabus" (attributed sometimes to Paul's companion) and "The Shepherd of Hermas," (attributed to a very early Christian or heretical writer) but the only accounts outside of Scripture that are remotely reliable as to the words of first century Christians who knew the apostles would come from the second hand words of 2nd century Christians.

I was convinced that the earliest Christians were basically “Protestant“ in their theology and practice and only became corrupted with “Catholic stuff“ in later centuries. I thought Protestants had the claim to authentic continuity back to the apostles.
Well, that depends what you consider "Catholic stuff." Some "Catholic stuff" entered very early, while other "Catholic stuff" like indulgences, prayers to departed believers, use of icons and idols for worship, papal infallibility, and the bodily assumption of Mary arose later - in some cases much later (try finding documentation of papal infallability more than a century before Vatican I).

But I was very mistaken and the more I studied the early Fathers of the Church, starting with Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, (disciples of Peter and Paul), Papias, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and others, I became convinced the early Church was Catholic. Intellectual honestly and spiritual integrity forced me to become a Catholic. As the old maxim says: “The water is always cooler and cleaner as you draw closer to the source.” I had gone back to the early Church and the truth was clear and refreshing.
First, the maxim is untrustworthy: heresies sprang up immediately. The apostles, for example, had to deal with Judaizing within the first century, and possibly Gnosticism as well (John's gospel can be viewed as a direct response to the Gnostic heresies).

Second, the claim that Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome were personally familiar with the apostles is open to reasonable doubt: the historical evidence of such personal familiarity is far from persuasive. There is, however, evidence of knowledge of the writings of the apostles - evidence of knowledge of the New Testament. 

For example, when Ignatius writes to the Ephesians, he quotes from Paul's epistle to the Ephesians (see Ignatius' Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 1, quoting from Ephesians 5:2) and Paul's epistle to the Corinthians (Id. Ch. 2, quoting from 1 Corinthians 1:10; and Ch. 18, quoting from 1 Corinthians 1:20).  Likewise, Clement writing to the Corinthians heavily relies on Old Testament Scripture, and likewise appears to reference New Testament Scripture (See 1 Clement 23, apparently combining James 1:8 and 2 Peter 3:3-4).

What is even more key is the fact that even though Ignatius of Antioch may have been ordained by one of the apostles or by men who know the apostles, in his letter the authority to which he appeals is uniformly the authority of Scripture.  He at one point quotes a saying of Jesus, but even this saying is found in the Gospels (See 1 Clement 13, providing the words found at Matthew 6:12–15 and 7:2 and Luke 6:36–38). 

More certainly could be said about the page at the link above.  There a number of quotations provided that doubtless are troubling to certain people, some of which I've addressed before, and most of which are addressed by (a) acknowledging that we are not carbon copies of the early church fathers, (b) recognizing that the church fathers were not all carbon copies of one another, (c) reading the fathers in context (perhaps I should have placed this first), and once we have adduced the true meaning of the fathers, if it disagrees with us, placing that matter before the bar of Scripture, which is the only infallible rule of faith and life.

Don't even get me started on the quotations from Luther.  I suspect my friend James Swan has already addressed those, as he has so many other attempted reliances on Luther by Rome's apologists.


Clement of Rome and Bryan Cross - Justification by Faith Alone or Faith and Works?

I'm glad that my friend Lane Keister recently highlighted the point that 1 Clement teaches justification by faith alone. The author of 1 Clement (whether Clement is the author or the scribe is an open question) does clearly indicate that justification is by faith alone, and by faith to the exclusion of works of holiness.

The contemporary Roman response to this (and Bryan Cross's response is illustrative of this category) is the same as their response to Paul's similar clear teaching to the Romans (the ancient Romans) and the Galatians. That response is to attempt to divide justification up into parts, suggesting that initial justification could be by faith alone in some sense, while suggesting that final justification is by faith and works.

There are major and minor problems associated with this response. First, neither Paul nor the author of 1 Clement make this distinction. Second, Paul in Galatians denies this tactic: "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3)

Next, notice that in their responses, Rome's advocates invariably go to places where the author doesn't mention justification. Bryan, to take an example, goes to Romans 5:5 and 1 Clement 12, 49, 50, 10 and 31, none of which mention justification.

The author of Clement does actually refer to the word justification in another place, and one in which he speaks about justification by works. The naive reader may be wondering whether Bryan has just overlooked this passage. No, there's a good reason that Bryan does not go there. In that place, the author is using the term justification the way James does:
Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. “For God,” saith [the Scripture], “resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words. For [the Scripture] saith, “He that speaketh much, shall also hear much in answer. And does he that is ready in speech deem himself righteous? Blessed is he that is born of woman, who liveth but a short time: be not given to much speaking.” Let our praise be in God, and not of ourselves; for God hateth those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers. Boldness, and arrogance, and audacity belong to those that are accursed of God; but moderation, humility, and meekness to such as are blessed by Him.
(1 Clement 30)

In that place, the author of Clement is describing justification in the eyes of others. The author suggests that we should seek to be justified by our deeds as opposed to our words - much like the man in James who claims to have faith, but doesn't show it by works.

But let's turn to the passages that Bryan cites. First, let's look at Chapter 12. Bryan cites the first line, but let's look at the whole thing:
On account of her faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved. For when spies were sent by Joshua, the son of Nun, to Jericho, the king of the country ascertained that they were come to spy out their land, and sent men to seize them, in order that, when taken, they might be put to death. But the hospitable Rahab receiving them, concealed them on the roof of her house under some stalks of flax. And when the men sent by the king arrived and said “There came men unto thee who are to spy out our land; bring them forth, for so the king commands,” she answered them, “The two men whom ye seek came unto me, but quickly departed again and are gone,” thus not discovering the spies to them. Then she said to the men, “I know assuredly that the Lord your God hath given you this city, for the fear and dread of you have fallen on its inhabitants. When therefore ye shall have taken it, keep ye me and the house of my father in safety.” And they said to her, “It shall be as thou hast spoken to us. As soon, therefore, as thou knowest that we are at hand, thou shall gather all thy family under thy roof, and they shall be preserved, but all that are found outside of thy dwelling shall perish.” Moreover, they gave her a sign to this effect, that she should hang forth from her house a scarlet thread. And thus they made it manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God. Ye see, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy, in this woman.
The first point to note is that the author of Clement is describing the instrument of Rahab's salvation from the destruction of Jericho. He's not saying she was justified from her sins by a combination of faith and something else. Interestingly, this would seem to be Rahab's initial act. So, if hospitality is a good work added to faith, then this would mean that her initial justification was not by faith alone. What an absurd result, even on Roman terms!

But note the spiritual lesson that the author of Clement derives. He actually states that she illustrates that redemption flows from the blood of Christ to all who "believe and hope in God." When he comes to applying her physical salvation to spiritual salvation, her works are not in the picture - just her faith and hope in God. Yes, she places the thread in the window, but that thread for Clement illustrates Christ's blood, not her deeds.

The second passage that Bryan goes to (twice, actually) is chapter 49 to which we will append chapter 50, since it was also excerpted and is a related thought:
(49)Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the [blessed] bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.
(50) Ye see, beloved, how great and wonderful a thing is love, and that there is no declaring its perfection. Who is fit to be found in it, except such as God has vouchsafed to render so? Let us pray, therefore, and implore of His mercy, that we may live blameless in love, free from all human partialities for one above another. All the generations from Adam even unto this day have passed away; but those who, through the grace of God, have been made perfect in love, now possess a place among the godly, and shall be made manifest at the revelation of the kingdom of Christ. For it is written, “Enter into thy secret chambers for a little time, until my wrath and fury pass away; and I will remember a propitious day, and will raise you up out of your graves.” Blessed are we, beloved, if we keep the commandments of God in the harmony of love; that so through love our sins may be forgiven us. For it is written, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not impute to him, and in whose mouth there is no guile.” This blessedness cometh upon those who have been chosen by God through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Chapter 49 is a long praise of love and an exhortation for those who have love in Christ to obey the commandments of God. It is not an admonition to them to seek justification through observation of the commandments of God. Chapter 50, by contrast, is a suggestion to beg for love from God. While we are exhorted to love "so that through love our sins may be forgiven us," notice that it does not say "through our love." Notice as well that the author does not attribute the blessedness to the man who is most careful to keep the commandments, but rather to those chosen by God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continuing in the order that Bryan picked, let's jump back to chapter 10:
Abraham, styled “the friend,” was found faithful, inasmuch as he rendered obedience to the words of God. He, in the exercise of obedience, went out from his own country, and from his kindred, and from his father’s house, in order that, by forsaking a small territory, and a weak family, and an insignificant house, he might inherit the promises of God. For God said to him, “Get thee out from thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, into the land which I shall show thee. And I will make thee a great nation, and will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shall be blessed. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” And again, on his departing from Lot, God said to him. “Lift up thine eyes, and look from the place where thou now art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, [so that] if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” And again [the Scripture] saith, “God brought forth Abram, and spake unto him, Look up now to heaven, and count the stars if thou be able to number them; so shall thy seed be. And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” On account of his faith and hospitality, a son was given him in his old age; and in the exercise of obedience, he offered him as a sacrifice to God on one of the mountains which He showed him.
Notice that the author of Clement describes here how Abraham is recognized as faithful. He is recognized as faithful by his obedience. Moreover, a reward was given him for his faith and hospitality, but that reward was not justification, not is it eternal life, but a son in his old age.

Then following Bryan's hopping and skipping through 1 Clement, we come to chapter 31:
Let us cleave then to His blessing, and consider what are the means of possessing it. Let us think over the things which have taken place from the beginning. For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith? Isaac, with perfect confidence, as if knowing what was to happen, cheerfully yielded himself as a sacrifice. Jacob, through reason of his brother, went forth with humility from his own land, and came to Laban and served him; and there was given to him the sceptre of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Bryan seems to suppose that Abraham's blessing referenced here is either justification or eternal life, but that's not what 1 Clement says. Indeed, the blessings mentioned by Clement are largely temporal blessings. Abraham gets a son in his old age and Jacob gets a huge family. We see that it is not justification or eternal life that is in view, but other blessings when we look at the next chapter, chapter 32, which completes the thought:
Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognize the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Notice how this chapter coming immediately on the heels of 31 undermines Bryan's claims. Notice that even when it comes to these great gifts, the author of Clement says it was not "for their own sake, or for their own works," taking back with one hand what he seemed to Bryan to give with the other hand. Moreover, it is at this very juncture that the author indicates that our justification is by faith alone.

It is remarkable how in his post Bryan tries to suggest that the question is about whether the author of Clement is talking about dead faith or not ("The question is this: Is he talking about about living faith (i.e. faith informed by the virtue of agape), or is he talking about dead faith (i.e. faith where there is not the virtue of agape)?"). One really wonders if Bryan seriously thinks that our position is that the author of Clement is suggesting that dead faith justifies. Of course, what Bryan means by "dead faith" and what we and James mean by "dead faith" are two different things. In Bryan's attempt to re-frame the question away from justification by faith, he has simply added an additional layer of imposed meaning on the author of Clement. The author does not here distinguish between "dead" and "living" faith - and certainly does not do so in the sense that Bryan's argument requires.

Moreover Bryan's argument relies on a mis-framing of the real question. The real question is not whether the author of 1 Clement viewed love as a virtue or as good works. After all, while Trent did argue that Faith must be accompanied by both Love and Hope (Chapter VII), Trent also positively stated that men are justified through the works that they do:
Chapter X:
Having, therefore, been thus justified, and made the friends and domestics of God, advancing from virtue to virtue, they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day; that is, by mortifying the members of their own flesh, and by presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification, they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death; and also, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And this increase of justification holy Church begs, when she prays, "Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity."
And this erroneous understanding of James' epistle is irreformably made part of Rome's dogma in at least two canons:
On Justification:
CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.
CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

What Rome anathematizes, we embrace - for it is the apostolic teaching of justification by faith alone apart from works. That's the real question - not the question of whether love is properly a virtue.

- TurretinFan

Monday, April 30, 2012

John Calvin vs. Cardinal Sadoleto

September 1, 1539, Calvin delivered a powerful blow to Roman apologetics of his day with his letter to Cardinal Sadoleto (Tony Pietrantonio recently provided an involuntary imitation of Sadoleto). What is interesting about the Calvin vs. Sadoleto dispute is that it begins from the topic of worship. Calvin states:
Therefore, Sadolet, when you uttered this voluntary confession, you laid the foundation of my defense. For if you admit it to be a fearful destruction to the soul, when, by false opinions, divine truth is turned into a lie, it now only remains for us to inquire which of the two parties retains that worship of God which is alone legitimate.
It is with great sorrow that we see some heirs of the Reformation squandering the legacy of legitimate worship of God, replacing it with all manner of will worship. Granted that it does not yet reach the extremes of Rome with its worship of idols of Mary, Angels, and the Saints, and the worship of them and of God by idols - the worship of bread as though it were God - and many other idolatries and blasphemies of like sort. Nevertheless, the emphasis on the purity of worship is something that is sadly too often missing in churches that are aimed at marketing themselves with popular music and other entertainment.

When it comes to doctrine, Justification by Faith takes a chief place, and Calvin's argument is excellent:
You, in the first place, touch upon justification by faith, the first and keenest subject of controversy between us. Is this a knotty and useless question? Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown. That doctrine, then, though of the highest moment, we maintain that you have nefariously effaced from the memory of men. Our books are filled with convincing proofs of this fact, and the gross ignorance of this doctrine, which even still continues in all your churches, declares that our complaint is by no means ill founded. But you very maliciously stir up prejudice against us, alleging that, by attributing every thing to faith, we leave no room for works.

I will not now enter upon a full discussion, which would require a large volume; but if you would look into the Catechism which I myself drew up for the Genevans, when I held the office of Pastor among them, three words would silence you. Here, however, I will briefly explain to you how we speak on this subject.

First, We bid a man begin by examining himself, and this not in a superficial and perfunctory manner, but to sift his conscience before the tribunal of God, and when sufficiently convinced of his iniquity, to reflect on the strictness of the sentence pronounced upon all sinners. Thus confounded and amazed at his misery, he is prostrated and humbled before God; and, casting away all self-confidence, groans as if given up to final perdition. Then we show that the only haven of safety is in the mercy of God, as manifested in Christ, in whom every part of our salvation is complete. As all mankind are, in the sight of God, lost sinners, we hold that Christ is their only righteousness, since, by his obedience, he has wiped off our transgressions; by his sacrifice, appeased the divine anger; by his blood, washed away our stains; by his cross, borne our curse; and by his death, made satisfaction for us. We maintain that in this way man is reconciled in Christ to God the Father, by no merit of his own, by no value of works, but by gratuitous mercy. When we embrace Christ by faith, and come, as it were, into communion with him, this we term, after the manner of Scripture, the righteousness of faith.

What have you here, Sadolet, to bite or carp at? Is it that we leave no room for works? Assuredly we do deny that, in justifying a man, they are worth one single straw. For Scripture everywhere cries aloud, that all are lost; and every mans’s own conscience bitterly accuses him. The same Scripture teaches, that no hope is left but in the mere goodness of God, by which sin is pardoned, and righteousness imputed to us. It declares both to be gratuitous, and finally concludes that a man is justified without works, (Rom. iv. 7.) But what notion, you ask, does the very term Righteousness suggest to us, if respect is not paid to good works ? I answer, if you would attend to the true meaning of the term justifying in Scripture, you would have no difficulty. For it does not refer to a man’s own righteousness, but to the mercy of God, which, contrary to the sinner’s deserts, accepts of a righteousness for him, and that by not imputing his unrighteousness. Our righteousness, I say, is that which is described by Paul, (2 Cor. v. 19,) that God both reconciled us to himself in Jesus Christ. The mode is afterwards subjoined -- by not imputing sin. He demonstrates that it is by faith only we become partakers of that blessing, when he says that the ministry of reconciliation is contained in the gospel. But faith, you say, is a general term, and has a larger signification. I answer, that Paul, whenever he attributes to it the power of justifying, at the same time restricts it to a gratuitous promise of the divine favor, and keeps it far removed from all respect to works. Hence his familiar inference -- if by faith, then not by works. On the other hand -- if by works, then not by faith.

But, it seems, injury is done to Christ, if, under the pretence of his grace, good works are repudiated; he having come to prepare a people acceptable to God, zealous of good works, while, to the same effect, are many similar passages which prove that Christ came in order that we, doing good works, might, through him, be accepted by God. This calumny, which our opponents have ever in their mouths, viz., that we take away the desire of well-doing from the Christian life by recommending gratuitous righteousness, is too frivolous to give us much concern. We deny that good works have any share in justification, but we claim full authority for them in the lives of the righteous. For, if he who has obtained justification possesses Christ, and, at the same time, Christ never is where his Spirit in not, it is obvious that gratuitous righteousness is necessarily connected with regeneration. Therefore, if you would duly understand how inseparable faith and works are, look to Christ, who, as the Apostle teaches, (1 Cor. i. 30,) has been given to us for justification and for sanctification. Wherever, therefore, that righteousness of faith, which we maintain to be gratuitous, is, there too Christ is, and where Christ is, there too is the Spirit of holiness, who regenerates the soul to newness of life. On the contrary, where zeal for integrity and holiness is not in vigour, there neither is the Spirit of Christ nor Christ himself; and wherever Christ is not, there in no righteousness, nay, there is no faith; for faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.

Since, therefore, according to us, Christ regenerates to a blessed life those whom he justifies, and after rescuing them from the dominion of sin, hands them over to the dominion of righteousness, transforms them into the image of God, and so trains them by his Spirit into obedience to his will, there is no ground to complain that, by our doctrine, lust is left with loosened reins. The passages which you adduce have not a meaning at variance with our doctrine. But if you will pervert them in assailing gratuitous justification, see how unskillfully you argue. Paul elsewhere says (Eph. i. 4) that we were chosen in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy and unblameable in the sight of God through love. Who will venture thence to infer, either that election is not gratuitous, or that our love is its cause? Nay, rather, as the end of gratuitous election, so also that of gratuitous justification is, that we may lead pure and unpolluted lives before God. For the saying of Paul is true, (1 Thess. iv. 7,) we have not been called to impurity, but to holiness. This, meanwhile, we constantly maintain, that man is not only justified freely once for all, without any merit of works, but that on this gratuitous justification the salvation of man perpetually depends. Nor is it possible that any work of man can he accepted by God unless it be gratuitously approved. Wherefore, I was amazed when I read your assertion, that love is the first and chief cause of our salvation. O, Sadolet, who could ever have expected such a saying from you? Undoubtedly the very blind, while in darkness, feel the mercy of God too surely to dare to claim for their love the first cause of their salvation, while those who have merely one spark of divine light feel that their salvation consists in nothing else than their being adopted by God. For eternal salvation is the inheritance of the heavenly Father, and has been prepared solely for his children. Moreover, who can assign any other cause of our adoption than that which is uniformly announced in Scripture, viz., that we did not first love him, but were spontaneously received by him into favor and affection?

Your ignorance of this doctrine leads you on to the error of teaching that sins are expiated by penances and satisfactions. Where, then, will be that one expiatory victim, from which, if we depart, there remains, as Scripture testifies, no more sacrifice for sin? Search through all the divine oracles which we possess; if the blood of Christ alone is uniformly act forth as purchasing satisfaction, reconciliation, and ablution, how dare you presume to transfer so great an honor to your works? Nor have you any ground for ascribing this blasphemy to the Church of God. The ancient Church, I admit, had its satisfactions, not those, however, by which sinners might atone to God and ransom themselves from guilt, but by which they might prove that the repentance which they professed was not feigned, and efface the remembrance of that scandal which their sin had occasioned. For satisfactions were not regularly prescribed to all and sundry, but to those only who had fallen into some heinous wickedness.
You can (and really should) read the whole letter here (link to letter). It is excellent.


Genetic Anomalies Due to Inbreeding?

A reader (I'll live him anonymous for now, unless he wants credit) wrote:
Reading last May's "Where is the Promise of Christ's Coming?" , the question came to me: how do we square the facts of closely-related "inbred" lines in genealogy with the Biblical fact that all of humanity descends from Adam via the eight of the Ark?

We know from the condition of the Habsburgs that such close relations lead to deformities and even mental incapacity (Charles II) over the span of less than 500 years of that family's history. Has humanity overall been preserved from this biological fact which interbreeding seems to engender over long periods of time? Was this simply a curse of God on the Habsburgs?

How do the 8 saved in the ark translate to the ~7 billion of today with such varied racial characteristics? It seems contradictory.
First, the Bible does indicate to us that human lifespan has dramatically decreased from the multiple century lifespans before the flood to the sub-century typical lifespans after the flood, and even today. Whether this is due to genetic corruption from an early period of "in-breeding" or whether it is due to changes in the Earth's protection from solar radiation associated with the Great Flood (something I've heard AiG types suggest), there has been some significant change to human life.

While I understand what you mean by "racial characteristics," it needs to be recognized that categories like "race" are largely conventional. Typically, pronounced physical differences are associated with relatively isolated groups. This isolation does tend to reinforce particular physical characteristics that are less common outside the group.

An example that most people may think of is the Pygmy people group, while the blue skinned people would be another less well known example. In God's providence, neither of those groups ever got large enough to be referred to as a "race," but the basic principle is the same.

Thus, "in-breeding" (very loosely defined) of each group may help to explain the very distinctive appearance of Europeans as compared to sub-Saharan Africans, peoples of the Indian sub-continent, and far-east Asians (to take some examples).

The Bible explains that at Babel language confusion resulted in dispersion of people from the tower. Moreover, in the days of Peleg the world was divided. This dispersion and division tended to have the result of people groups becoming more segregated and distinctive. It's not totally clear how uniform in appearance the pre-Fall humans were, but even if they were all quite similar in appearance to one another, this post-fall dispersion and segregation would be expected to produce groups with distinctive looks after a number of generations.

We all derive from one pair of adults (Adam and Eve), and also from a maximum of 8 grandparents (Noah and his wife and the in-laws of their three sons), all of which are descendants of that original pair. This led to some measure of marrying one's close relatives for a number of generations. However, over time this necessity decreased. Thus, by the time of Moses, there were prohibitions on marrying one's half sister, although only about seven generations earlier Abraham had married his own half-sister, though clearly there was already stigma associated with marrying a full-blooded sister at that time.

Why then are we not all then deformed? First, as the relationships become more distant, inbreeding does not invariably produce and emphasize harmful, recessive mutations. Second, the "survival of the fittest" principle applied to a large extent in pre-socialistic societies. Those with physical and/or mental defects would tend to remove themselves from the gene pool in a variety of ways. Thirdly, it is entirely possible that human genetics were not as prone to mutation before the fall, and that they only gradually became prone to mutation after the fall. For example, if the mechanism that produces a short life is also the mechanism that leads to harmful mutations, and if that mechanism is solar radiation, then it seems possible that there was no significant genetic risk to mutation before the fall.

A lot of this is, of course, speculation. God does not necessarily give us the answers to all these questions. We have no way of knowing whether the Hapsburg family was specially cursed by God, or whether their condition had some other purpose in God's plan. Whatever the answer to that question, since the history of man before and after the flood does not require men to marry their first cousins or full blooded sisters for many successive generations, the risks associated with in-breeding today among a population of 7 billion derived from an original pair is small.


Bayseian Probabilities Misused ... Exemplified

In this amusing post, Glenn Peoples (Update: Technically, the creative work is Tim McGrew's) lampoons Richard Carrier's misuse of Bayseian Probability by turning his methods on - the existence of Richard Carrier (link to example). This misuse of "probability" is not confined to anti-supernaturalists like Carrier. We also see it among supernaturalists, from time to time.


H.T. Victor Reppert