Justification, the Council of Orange and Trent, Church History and "Apostasy"

Justification, the Council of Orange and Trent, Church History, and "Apostasy"
based on posts from an anti-Catholic Reformed blog "Between Two Worlds" (Nov 2007)

Shane Trammel said... 

Justin, I guess your blog in many cases should be looked at as a source of news and information and that is awesome.

Article in Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/novemberweb-only/145-52.0.html 

I had to say something about this one. I read the Christianity Today article with Hassell Bullock and it is an outrage. First, Bullock suggest that Roman Catholics and Orthodox are "brothers and sisters in Christ" with the Protestants. Well that is not the case. Protestants are in no way in communion with Catholics and Orthodox. Catholics and Orthodox believe a different gospel and we must separate on those grounds. We should be talking about evangelizing Catholics and Orthodox, not being their brothers. Second, Bullock says Beckwith is a brother in Christ. Again, as a Roman Catholic, Beckwith denies the only Gospel that will bring salvation. Third, Bullock suggest that there is somehow still some un-answered questions as to what justification is from the different sides. That is crazy, there is only one true understanding of justification.

Are we to sit back, make people think it is OK to have a different view, and allow them to believe a damning doctrine. Sorry, not me. We are saved through faith alone, in Christ alone, by His grace alone. Now I will dialogue with those who have a different view, but I will not call them brothers in Christ. I will tell them I love them and want to see them in heaven and ask them to turn to the truth of Christ found in His word.

11/09/2007 10:14:00 PM

johnMark said... 

Shane, I agree with you. Mark

11/10/2007 10:29:00 AM

DJP said...

Shane, I'm afraid you'll get complaints about "tone," but I can't disagree with your bottom-line. Further, I think folks like Bullock do a grave and eternal disservice to Beckwith and any one else tempted to apostasy. Ooh. There's that word.

11/11/2007 08:52:00 AM

Shane Trammel said...

DJP says there may be some complaints about my tone. So, let me say, my heart is to share the truth. If my tone comes on strong and in the wrong way, I am sorry. My greatest desire, like most here I am sure, is to glorify God in all that I do. I know I am not always successful in doing so. To God be the glory, Shane

11/11/2007 01:07:00 PM

Francis J. Beckwith said...

I'm proud of my brother, Hassell Bullock, who, like other members of the ETS executive committee, have conducted themselves with grace and charity over the past seven months.

Shane, do you actually believe that one's eternal destiny turns entirely on whether one believes that justification is imputed or infused? If so, then virtually no one got the gospel right prior to the 16th century. In fact, according to your understanding, both Augustine and Pelagius were wrong! Remember that the central question in this debate was over whether the sin of Adam is inherited by his progeny and can only be removed by the sacrament of Baptism by which God's unmerited grace is provided for the forgiveness of sins. It seems to me that the Pelagian heresy was rooted in the denial of original sin, which Augustine (and the Council of Orange; see below), rightly argued, could only be removed by an infusion of God's grace. So, it seems to me that to take Augustine's side in the Pelagian debate is to reject Calvin's view of imputation. Thus, ironically, both Pelagius and Calvin agree that God's infused grace is not necessary for justification. Here are Canons 13-21 and the conclusion of the Council of Orange, the one that condemned the Pelagian heresy (AD 529):

CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it. Hence the Truth itself declares: "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

CANON 14. No mean wretch is freed from his sorrowful state, however great it may be, save the one who is anticipated by the mercy of God, as the Psalmist says, "Let thy compassion come speedily to meet us" (Ps. 79:8), and again, "My God in his steadfast love will meet me" (Ps. 59:10).

CANON 15. Adam was changed, but for the worse, through his own iniquity from what God made him. Through the grace of God the believer is changed, but for the better, from what his iniquity has done for him. The one, therefore, was the change brought about by the first sinner; the other, according to the Psalmist, is the change of the right hand of the Most High (Ps. 77:10).

CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment, as though it were not a gift, or suppose that he has received it because a missive from without stated it in writing or in speech. For the Apostle speaks thus, "For if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21); and "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men" (Eph. 4:8, quoting Ps. 68:18). It is from this source that any man has what he does; but whoever denies that he has it from this source either does not truly have it, or else "even what he has will be taken away" (Matt. 25:29).

CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which "has been poured into our hearts" not by freedom of will from our own side but "through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5).

CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.

CANON 19. That a man can be saved only when God shows mercy. Human nature, even though it remained in that sound state in which it was created, could be no means save itself, without the assistance of the Creator; hence since man cannot safe- guard his salvation without the grace of God, which is a gift, how will he be able to restore what he has lost without the grace of God?

CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.

CANON 21. Concerning nature and grace. As the Apostle most truly says to those who would be justified by the law and have fallen from grace, "If justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21), so it is most truly declared to those who imagine that grace, which faith in Christ advocates and lays hold of, is nature: "If justification were through nature, then Christ died to no purpose." Now there was indeed the law, but it did not justify, and there was indeed nature, but it did not justify. Not in vain did Christ therefore die, so that the law might be fulfilled by him who said, "I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfil them" (Matt. 5:17), and that the nature which had been destroyed by Adam might be restored by him who said that he had come "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).

CANON 22. Concerning those things that belong to man. No man has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or righteousness, it from that fountain for which we must thirst in this desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on the way.

CANON 23. Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.

CANON 24. Concerning the branches of the vine. The branches on the vine do not give life to the vine, but receive life from it; thus the vine is related to its branches in such a way that it supplies them with what they need to live, and does not take this from them. Thus it is to the advantage of the disciples, not Christ, both to have Christ abiding in them and to abide in Christ. For if the vine is cut down another can shoot up from the live root; but one who is cut off from the vine cannot live without the root (John 15:5ff).

CANON 25. Concerning the love with which we love God. It is wholly a gift of God to love God. He who loves, even though he is not loved, allowed himself to be loved. We are loved, even when we displease him, so that we might have means to please him. For the Spirit, whom we love with the Father and the Son, has poured into our hearts the love of the Father and the Son (Rom. 5:5).

CONCLUSION. And thus according to the passages of holy scripture quoted above or the interpretations of the ancient Fathers we must, under the blessing of God, preach and believe as follows. The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him. We therefore believe that the glorious faith which was given to Abel the righteous, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and to all the saints of old, and which the Apostle Paul commends in extolling them (Heb. 11), was not given through natural goodness as it was before to Adam, but was bestowed by the grace of God. And we know and also believe that even after the coming of our Lord this grace is not to be found in the free will of all who desire to be baptized, but is bestowed by the kindness of Christ, as has already been frequently stated and as the Apostle Paul declares, "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29). And again, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). And as the Apostle says of himself, "I have obtained mercy to be faithful" (1 Cor. 7:25, cf. 1 Tim. 1:13). He did not say, "because I was faithful," but "to be faithful." And again, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7). And again, "Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas. 1:17). And again, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27). There are innumerable passages of holy scripture which can be quoted to prove the case for grace, but they have been omitted for the sake of brevity, because further examples will not really be of use where few are deemed sufficient.

According to the catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul. We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema. We also believe and confess to our benefit that in every good work it is not we who take the initiative and are then assisted through the mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith in him and love for him without any previous good works of our own that deserve reward, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacrament of baptism, and after baptism be able by his help to do what is pleasing to him. We must therefore most evidently believe that the praiseworthy faith of the thief whom the Lord called to his home in paradise, and of Cornelius the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord was sent, and of Zacchaeus, who was worthy to receive the Lord himself, was not a natural endowment but a gift of God's kindness.

[FJB again]: According to the ancient church, to deny these canons is heresy. To affirm them is orthodoxy. I affirm them because I am Catholic. And I am Catholic because I affirm them.

11/11/2007 02:09:00 PM

Eric said...

You espouse 'by grace through faith' but then teach Progressive (i.e. conditional) Justification, relying on works to be (hopefully) justified (with the assistance of God's grace). That's a different gospel.

11/11/2007 02:27:00 PM

Shane Trammel said...

Mr. Beckwith, Thank you for your clear statement on how you see the doctrine of justification. I would like to answer your question this way. I do not accept the official doctrine of justification as taught by the Catholic Church. Therefore, since you accept official Catholic teaching on this matter, I stand by Galatians 1, and do have concern for your eternal soul along with those of all who share your view on salvation. Now I can use the big words that most in the real world don't use like imputed or infused, but let me just say it this way again to be clear. We are saved by faith alone, by Grace alone, in Christ alone. And finally, to make my position clear let me finish with this.

(1) I do actually believe that one's eternal destiny turns entirely on whether one believes that justification is imputed or infused? (more could be said, but there you have it.

(2) I have read Augustine and about Pelagius and my justification has nothing to do with what these men have said. However, godly they may have been, my justification comes from Christ alone, by His grace alone, through faith alone.

(3) Were men saved before 1600. Sure, why should we assume otherwise. You must remember not everyone believed what the Catholic Church taught. Throughout time, ever since the first century church (not the Catholic Church) men have been taught the truth.

11/11/2007 06:26:00 PM

Michael Bauman said...

Do not confuse theories of justification with the gospel. The gospel is salvation through faith in Christ. Frank Beckwith has faith in Christ, and has had faith in Christ for many, many years. He has elected to return to the church of his baptism, a church with which other Protestants and I disagree. But that choice is not a rejection of Christ or of Christianity. Frank Beckwith has not rejected the Christian faith. He is not an apostate.

11/11/2007 07:15:00 PM

Shane Trammel said...

Michael Bauman, Only God know the truth about me, you, Mr. Beckwith, and all who claim to have a saving faith in Christ. Sure there are signs that can help us make some judgment as to someones salvation, but we can never know for sure. Somehow, I don't think Mr. Beckwith needs you to speak for him. Mr. Beckwith has not only returned to the church of his 'baptism', he has returned to a church full of doctrines, that if believed, may very well send that individual to hell for eternity. Based on my understanding of what Mr. Beckwith now claims, he is in full communion with the Catholic Church and shares belief in all her official doctrines. That being said, he is in danger of apostasy. Denying the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no small matter to be sure.


11/11/2007 08:37:00 PM

Michael Bauman said... 

You're missing the point, Shane. Despite your repetition to the contrary, Frank Beckwith has not denied the gospel. The gospel is salvation through faith in Christ. The gospel is not assent to sola fide. Frank has moved away from your (and my) view of justification. Movement from that is not movement from the Christian faith. One begins to think that you, not Frank, has forgotten gospel content: Salvation comes by faith in Christ, not faith in sola fide. He has it, and he has it just as clearly as anyone you or I know.

No, Frank does not need me to speak for him; nor has he asked me to. But then, he doesn't need you to speak TO him. He already gets it. He's a Christian, a man with faith in Christ. To call him an apostate is a serious wickedness on your (or anyone's) part, and an exercise in bearing false witness against your neighbor.

As an ardent Protestant, I am pleased when anyone presses hard in defense of reformed doctrine. But I am appalled when they declare that those who disagree with them on the various theories of justification are in danger of losing their souls. It's time to distinguish between agreeing with you and agreeing with God. Faith in Christ can be real even though it dissents from reformed theology.

11/11/2007 09:07:00 PM

Doug said...

Mr. Beckwith and Mr. Baumann,

I am guessing that you are familiar with the theological statement called "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration" which was affirmed by a wide spectrum of evangelical theologians. Printed below is a crucial section of that statement, relating to the subject of this blog thread. I cannot see how the assertions you are making are compatible with this Statement, including its affirmation that justification by faith alone, understood in relation to an imputed (not infused) righteousness, is essential to the authentic gospel.

(Or do you think the Statement is mistaken?)

"God's justification of those who trust him, according to the Gospel, is a decisive transition, here and now, from a state of condemnation and wrath because of their sins to one of acceptance and favor by virtue of Jesus' flawless obedience culminating in his voluntary sin-bearing death. God "justifies the wicked" (ungodly: Rom. 4:5) by imputing (reckoning, crediting, counting, accounting) righteousness to them and ceasing to count their sins against them (Rom. 4:1-8). Sinners receive through faith in Christ alone "the gift of righteousness" (Rom. 1:17, 5:17; Phil. 3:9) and thus be come "the righteousness of God" in him who was "made sin" for them (2 Cor. 5:21).

"As our sins were reckoned to Christ, so Christ's righteousness is reckoned to us. This is justification by the imputation of Christ's righteousness. All we bring to the transaction is our need of it....

"1. We affirm that the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone is essential to the Gospel (Rom. 3:28; 4:5; Gal. 2:16). We deny that any person can believe the biblical Gospel and at the same time reject the apostolic teaching of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. We also deny that there is more than one true Gospel (Gal. 1:6-9).

"2. We affirm that the doctrine of the imputation (reckoning or counting) both of our sins to Christ and of his righteousness to us, whereby our sins are fully forgiven and we are fully accepted, is essential to the biblical Gospel (2 Cor. 5:19-21). We deny that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ infused into us or by any righteousness that is thought to inhere within us."

( The Statement, and those who prepared and affirmed it, can be found at http://www.thiswebelieve.com/statement.htm )

11/11/2007 09:36:00 PM

James White said...

Dear Paul:

In reviewing your letter to the churches of Galatia, we, the modern men of the 21st century, have come to the conclusion that you truly missed the point in your very pointed and, may we say, unloving comments regarding the faithful brothers with whom you had but a minor theological difference. We are in particular offended that you would identify men who clearly confess faith in Christ and who have risked their lives for their faith "false brethren." Who are you to make such a harsh judgment, in light of their many evidences of faith? These men are Christians, and to call them false brethren is a serious sin! You are bearing false witness against them! And to dare to read the intentions of their hearts so as to say they were "sneaking" into the fellowship is simply beyond the pale. You should be ashamed of yourself! All you disagree on is a minor point of theology! They believe in Christ! They believe in His resurrection! They simply believe one should be circumcised so as to be a part of the covenant people of God! How narrow of you to exclude them from the fellowship of faith simply on the basis of such a minor thing as this! Why won't you focus upon the areas of agreement you have? Why focus only upon differences, the negatives? Don't you realize you will never win people to your views if you continue to act in this fashion? We seriously request that you apologize to the faithful brothers you anathematized in your ill-advised letter to the churches of Galatia. By this, true peace and unity might be achieved!

Mr. Bauman says that it is "a serious wickedness on your (or anyone's) part" to say that a person who moves from confession of the solas to that of Rome is an apostate. May I ask what then constitutes apostasy in Mr. Bauman's world? Evidently, the gospel is no longer a part of what defines the Christian faith? So now we only identify as apostates those who engage in formal heresy regarding, say, the Trinity? Hopefully the resurrection? But now it is "OK" to confess that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice that can be approached 20,000 times without bringing perfection, that celibate priests can be called "alter Christus" in their ordinations and that they can, by sacramental power, render Christ present upon Rome's altars, that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ and infallible in teaching authority, that no grace accrues to anyone outside of Mary by God's design, and that Mary was Immaculately conceived and Bodily Assumed into heaven, and that if you die with temporal punishments of sin upon your soul you undergo satispassio in purgatory, and it's all just a slight difference over imputation versus infusion? All these dogmatic definitions of the gospel itself are just so much minor theological drivel, so that one can confess them, or not, and all is well? This is the clarity of modern theology?

Let me make it plain and clear: if I ever confess such things, and deny the perfection of the work of Christ in my behalf, consigning my Lord and Savior to the role of merely making salvation possible if I cooperate enough, please, I beg of my brothers in Christ, have the intestinal fortitude and love of God and His gospel to call me what I would be: an apostate. To refuse to do so is to show that you fear the face of men more than you honor God Himself. 

Do we have such a low view of Scripture that we do not believe the gospel has been revealed with sufficient clarity to identify Rome's abomination for what it is? Can we be so easily duped as to think that the difference between Rome's religion and the gospel is merely a matter of a theory of imputation vs. infusion? Are we so blind? 

I suppose we can surely admit that Rome does not add to the clarity of the situation given the massive confusion that now reigns in the highest halls of her leadership. Inclusivism and universalism exists side-by-side with "old time Rome" so that identifying Rome's current orthodoxy is next to impossible. And it surely makes it challenging to attempt to hold Rome's apologists to any consistent standard, for they can switch back and forth between various positions as the need arises. 

Dr. Beckwith posted a number of canons from the Council of Orange. I'd like to provide another citation and see if Dr. Beckwith likewise accepts this one:

It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (Denzinger 714).

I would invite Dr. Beckwith to examine the context, historically, of these words. Look at the beliefs of the men involved in writing these words. What they mean is obvious. So, does he believe these words? Does it really sound like the Council of Constance viewed the difference between Rome and "schismatics" as a minor thing? Surely, this came before the Reformation, but to try to reduce the differences between the Reformation and Rome to a mere difference of "theory" regarding justification is not only laughable, it is, in my opinion, simply reprehensible. To refuse to see Rome's view of justification within the full context of Rome's soteriology is either deceptive, or just plain ridiculous.

Since it has been said that it is sinful to identify a convert (or revert) to Rome as an apostate [and please note, I have often said that I do not know if Dr. Beckwith is actually an apostate, since I have yet to find any solid evidence that he ever abandoned Rome's views of man and grace to begin with], let me say that I believe it is sinful to accept the calling of God's people in a truly Reformed congregation, swear fealty to such Reformed standards as define that faith, and then at the same time refuse to have the honor and integrity and love for truth to speak the truth plainly regarding Rome's false gospel. If you do not believe the gospel is clear enough to distinguish from Rome, then I suggest you are not Reformed, period. Please stop adding to the confusion by saying you are. It would be much appreciated.

James White

11/11/2007 11:25:00 PM

Shane Trammel said... 

I think I need to clear things up a little bit. In my first post, I said First, Bullock suggest that Roman Catholics and Orthodox are "brothers and sisters in Christ" with the Protestants. Well that is not the case. Protestants are in no way in communion with Catholics and Orthodox. Catholics and Orthodox believe a different gospel and we must separate on those grounds..

I need to revise that statement to be Many Protestants do not consider the reformation to be over and thus would not consider Roman Catholic nor Orthodox as 'brothers and sisters in Christ'.

11/11/2007 11:56:00 PM

Shane Trammel said... 

From the Gospel Coalition:

The Justification of Sinners

We believe that Christ, by his obedience and death, fully discharged the debt of all those who are justified. By his sacrifice, he bore in our stead the punishment due us for our sins, making a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice on our behalf. By his perfect obedience he satisfied the just demands of God on our behalf, since by faith alone that perfect obedience is credited to all who trust in Christ alone for their acceptance with God. Inasmuch as Christ was given by the Father for us, and his obedience and punishment were accepted in place of our own, freely and not for anything in us, this justification is solely of free grace, in order that both the exact justice and the rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners. We believe that a zeal for personal and public obedience flows from this free justification.

11/12/2007 12:24:00 AM

P said... 

Who believed the gospel of the Protestant Reformation before Luther? It's been admitted St. Augustine didn't, the council of Orange didn't, Aquinas didn't, and you can throw out Ambrosiaster and Theodoret too, who White has abused in the past. Please don't say John Chrysostom either. :)


So who can answer: was the gospel of the Protestants believed before Luther? That's the issue, not how we interpret Galatians 1. We agree the Judaizers were denying the gospel. Where we don't agree is whether all the Church Fathers, the Church Councils, and all Christians prior to Luther denied the gospel. If no one believed the true gospel before Luther, there were no true believers in Christ before Luther, the Church was therefore apostate, and the gates of hell prevailed. And while you're at it naming Christians who believed the true gospel before Luther, you can respond to Alister McGrath:

"The essential feature of the Reformation doctrines of justification is that a deliberate and systematic distinction is made between justification and regeneration. Although it must be emphasised that this distinction is purely notional, in that it is impossible to separate the two within the context of the -ordo salutis- [the order of salvation], the essential point is that a notional distinction is made WHERE NONE HAD BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED BEFORE IN THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE [emphasis mine]."

"A fundamental discontinuity was introduced into the western theological tradition WHERE NONE HAD EVER EXISTED, OR EVER BEEN CONTEMPLATED, BEFORE [emphasis mine]. The Reformation understanding of the NATURE of justification -- as opposed to its mode -- must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological NOVUM." (IUSTITIA DEI: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification [Cambridge Univ Press, 1986], Volume 1, Chapter 5, Section 19).

Yeah that old chestnut again.


11/12/2007 02:15:00 PM

P said... 

Shane: "The Catholic doctrine of justification must leave out the 'alone' because they have added works to the mix."

Yeah as does Jesus and the Bible. Matt 16:27; Matt 19:16-21; Matt 25:31-46; 1 Cor 13:2,13; Gal 5:6; Rom 1:5; 2:5-10; 6:16; 16:26; James 2:20-24; 1 John 3:7-10; Rev 22:11-12; and a few dozen more here


Biblical interpretation isn't the issue. Catholics/Orthodox/Protestants all believe they have the Bible on their side. The issue is who believed the specific Protestant gospel you have defined above before Luther? "The apostles" is not an answer, since the evidence prior to Luther shows "the apostles" are on the Catholic/Orthodox side. Hard question, but these questions produce converts to Catholicism/Orthodoxy, so there should be a good Protestant answer. Although I as a cradle Catholic haven't found one.


11/12/2007 02:31:00 PM

P said... 

Shane: "I need to revise that statement to be Many Protestants do not consider the reformation to be over and thus would not consider Roman Catholic nor Orthodox as 'brothers and sisters in Christ'."

Thanks for the revision. The next obvious question, which Protestants are true Protestants and how do you determine such? How do we know those particular Protestants are right to exclude Catholic/Orthodox as brothers and sisters in Christ?

The answer "true Protestants are those who hold to justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone" is not a sufficient answer since Catholics/Orthodox can hold to that formula if 'faith alone' is understood in a wider sense that includes obedience and love: Rom 1:5; 6:16; 16:26; John 3:36; Hebrews 5:8-9; Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 13:2,13; James 2:24; etc. Catholics exclude the works of Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7; Rom 4:4-5; in the sense of earning salvation (Council of Trent, Session 6, canons 1-3).

"And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace." (Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8)

So to me, it does turn into a technical theological debate on "imputation" vs. "infusion" and ultimately I don't see much difference. The entire "gospel" is defined by St. Paul in 1 Cor 15:1-8 and it doesn't talk about imputation or infusion.

That said, I'd still like to know who believed the specific Protestant gospel defined twice above (either the "Gospel Coalition" or the "Evangelical Celebration" definitions) before Luther?


11/12/2007 03:09:00 PM

P said... 

Shane: "Were men saved before 1600. Sure, why should we assume otherwise. You must remember not everyone believed what the Catholic Church taught. Throughout time, ever since the first century church (not the Catholic Church) men have been taught the truth."

You claim: "Not everyone believed what the Catholic Church taught." My challenge: name them. If Christians were saved prior to Luther, they were saved by the Catholic Gospel. Specifically, name Christians from 100 AD to 1500 AD who

(1) were not under the authority of a Catholic Bishop;

(2) were not administered the sacraments by Catholic priests because they didn't believe in sacraments or rejected the ministerial priesthood or they didn't "believe what the Catholic Church taught";

(3) who held to the Protestant gospel defined above before Luther.

And don't stray from the topic by bringing up the Council of Constance (or Pope Honorius, or indulgences, or satisspassio in purgatory, etc) as White likes to do. That's for another 50 blog posts, not this one. :)

BTW, apostasy is defined as leaving the Christian faith entirely, and that Christian faith was defined by the Ecumenical or General Creeds of Christendom (Nicaea forward). Therefore, Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants in general are separated brothers and sisters in Christ (as noted by Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism), not apostates.


11/12/2007 03:32:00 PM

Doug said... 


Your last post is in agreement with the idea that the Christian Faith has been clarified and defended throughout history by successive councils and creeds (regarding the Trinity, the divinity and humanity of Christ, etc.). If that is true, why can't it be true that the Spirit worked in the Church, reflecting on Scripture, to clarify the true nature of justification at the time of the Reformation?

Why couldn't we conceive of the theological clarification and/or enrichment that happened regarding justification during the Reformation as being analogous to what happened, for example, during the time of the Council of Chalcedon (regarding the full deity and humanity of Christ)?

11/12/2007 04:47:00 PM

Anonymous said... 

Doug: But what Reformer is the equivalent to an Ecumenical Council? You also have the problem of the Reformers's view of imputation contradicting the ecumenical council at Orange (as Dr. Beckwith noted). However, I do believe that the Holy Spirit was working through Luther to correct the direction of the Church. And it made that correction at Trent. It reaffirmed Orange, and rejected the extremes of faith alone without infusion, works righteousness, and the abuse of indulgences. 

Where Luther and Calvin went wrong was incorporating the poison--nominalism--that produced the corruption they correctly saw needed to be eliminated. They reached back into Catholic tradition and found the wonder of grace and the normativity of Scripture. They should be commended for that. But they detached these ideas from the Christian view of man--realist--and the importance of the Church in the formation and interpretation of Scripture.

11/12/2007 05:40:00 PM

P said... 

doug: "If that is true, why can't it be true that the Spirit worked in the Church, reflecting on Scripture, to clarify the true nature of justification at the time of the Reformation?"

Oh there was a definite "development of doctrine" regarding justification, but the path is the apostles and New Testament, to the ante-Nicene Church Fathers, to Augustine and later Church Fathers, to early councils such as Orange, to Aquinas and the Catholic Doctors, and finally to Trent. Whereas Protestant "development" requires a rejection of the Fathers on baptism, a rejection of Augustine on justification and merit, rejection of Orange, rejection of Aquinas and all the medieval doctors on salvation, justification, sacraments, etc. The problem is the Spirit did not seem to work in the Church of Augustine's day, Aquinas' day, and through the later Middle Ages. But I'll agree before Augustine, aside from baptismal regeneration, the doctrine of justification was not worked out.

James R. White admits thus:

"A fully biblical reorientation of the term [justify] would await the Reformation itself...Regarding justification, one simply does not find the kind of exegetical study and discussion in the early fathers upon which to base accusations against sole fide. It simply was not a subject of debate in their context, so to put great weight upon their default position, when it was a position informed by tradition and not the kind of thoughtful conclusion that comes from conflict that drives one into the text of Scripture, is folly."

"Another relevant historical issue is that in many ways a modern exegete is closer to the original writers than interpreters only a few centuries removed. It should be remembered that many of the early fathers lived and worked in a context where they were cut off from extremely important information."

"...when it comes to the key issues that make up the primary areas of conflict regarding justification by grace through faith alone today, the early fathers show themselves to have embraced viewpoints that were not derived from exegesis of the inspired text but from many and varied other sources. The weight of their testimony, then, must be held against the weight of the consistent witness of Scripture itself, which laid out the doctrine before any of the early fathers put pen to paper. And when we recall that many of those fathers who first created the traditions that so heavily influenced later generations did not even have a complete copy of the New Testament text, we see again the importance of a pan-canonical theology, one based upon the entirety of Scripture...." (James White, The God Who Justifies, page 134-135).

Translation: There was no "development of doctrine" in a Protestant sense according to White. The Fathers were just wrong, they were ignorant of the Bible, they didn't do proper exegesis, they couldn't because they didn't have the full NT text and such modern things as computers and Bible software, and they were simply mistaken on baptism, salvation, justification. The "fully biblical" doctrine first emerged at the Reformation. I won't call that a development of doctrine.

White suggests Clement (c. 95 AD), and "Mathetes" (to Diognetus, c. 150 AD) could be interpreted in a Protestant sense, but that all the Greek Fathers got it wrong because of "free will," that Tertullian and Augustine (the latter whose "insights are often amazingly accurate", White, page 133) were both wrong on justification, free will, and merit. None of these guys did proper biblical exegesis until Luther, and even much of what Luther wrote was wrong, according to baptists such as White. The Fathers were too steeped in "tradition."

Maybe you have a different opinion than McGrath or White, but I think their words speak for themselves?

BTW, I was brought here from White's blog post, so it's his fault. :)


11/12/2007 06:11:00 PM

Doug said... 


I was specifically aiming at the last paragraph of your previous post. But beyond that, I'll admit I'm not well-versed enough to debate you regarding the specifics of the ancient church creeds and councils. I'd refer you, however, to R. Scott Clark's comments at this weblog, responding to the entry: "Horton, Sungenis, Justification and the Confusion Over Trent" as it relates to how official Catholicism regards Protestantism. 

I would still be interested to know what Mr. Beckwith and Mr. Baumann think about the theological statement "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration" and the points I made concerning this statement in my previous comment here.

11/12/2007 06:57:00 PM

P said... 

Darn, I was hoping for a few exchanges with Shane. There's not much on his blog, but he posted this 9/5/2006 --

Called The Apostle of Germany -- Boniface -- Germany and Northern Europe - C. A.D. 675-754

Quote: Let us fight for the Lord in these days of bitternes and affliction. If this be the will of God, let us die for the holy laws of our fathers, that we may arrive with them at the eternal inheritance. -- Boniface

Therefore I can assume St. Boniface is one of those who held to the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone? He was not apostate, he believed the true gospel? Sorry, think again. He was a total apostate like the rest of the Fathers and Doctors. That's Apostate (capital A) not Apostle.

From St. Boniface, (WINFRID, WYNFRITH), Apostle of Germany, d. 754

"While Winfrid was under the jurisdiction of St. Willibrord he had no special reason for reporting to the Holy See, but, now working independently, he considered it his duty to do so. He therefore sent Bynnan, one of his disciples, with a letter to Gregory recounting his labours of the past years and asking for further directions. Bynnan promptly executed his commission and soon returned with the pope's answer, expressing satisfaction with what had been done and a desire to confer with Winfrid personally. Winfrid accordingly set out for Rome, taking his course through France and Burgundy. He was warmly welcomed by the pope, who questioned him carefully, made him take the usual oath of allegiance, received from him a profession of faith, and on 30 November, 722 (723), consecrated him a regional bishop, with the name Boniface. Some say that Winfrid had taken this name at the time of his religious profession; others, that he received it on his first visit to Rome. The same discrepancy of opinion exists in derivation from bonum facere or bonum fatum; perhaps it is only an approximate Latinization of Wyn-frith. Pope Gregory then sent Boniface back with letters to his diocesans in Thuringia and Hessia demanding obedience for their new bishop. A letter was also addressed to Charles Martel asking his protection. Boniface himself had received a set of ecclesiastical canons for his guidance." ( http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02656a.htm )

So you can toss out St. Boniface as believing the true gospel. He did not, typical apostate Catholic Bishop. Anybody else you wanna try? :)


11/12/2007 07:57:00 PM

P said... 

More on St. Boniface, who appears on Shane's blog as someone who apparently believed the true gospel. You should read up on these apostates before you quote them on your blog!

"He made his profession as a member of the Benedictine Order and was placed in charge of the monastic school. At the age of thirty he was ordained priest. Through his abbot the fame of Winfrid's learning soon reached high civil and ecclesiastical circles. He also had great success as a preacher. With every prospect of a great career and the highest dignities in his own country, he had no desire for human glory, for the thought of bringing the light of the Gospel to his kindred, the Old Saxons, in Germany, had taken possession of his mind. After many requests Winfrid at last obtained the permission of his abbot." ( http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02656a.htm )

Sorry, forgot to mention this saint was an ordained Benedictine priest and monk before he was consecrated a Catholic bishop by the Pope. And while he may have had "great success as a preacher" and desired nothing but "bringing the light of the Gospel" to his people, we know he preached nothing but apostasy and blasphemy (i.e. the Catholic Gospel and Catholic doctrine), for he lived in the 7th-8th century AD, long after Constantine.

Is the message clear yet? The guy was clearly an Apostate, so you can stop quoting him. No, I'm not trying to be funny, just logical according to Shane logic. :)


11/12/2007 08:18:00 PM

P said... 

No one has yet defined apostasy. Here is one definition:

Apostasy (from Greek, meaning a defection or revolt, from "away, apart", "standing") is a term generally employed to describe the formal renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to one's former religion. One who commits apostasy is an apostate, or one who apostatises. In older Western literature, the term typically referred to baptized Christians who left their faith, thus, according to some Christians, were never "Christians" in the first place. Apostasy is generally not a self-definition: very few former believers call themselves apostates and they generally consider this term to be a pejorative. One of the possible reasons for this renunciation is loss of faith, another is the failure of alleged religious indoctrination or brainwashing.

The difference between apostasy and heresy is that the latter refers to rejection or corruption of certain doctrines, not to the complete abandonment of one's religion. Heretics claim to still be following a religion (or to be the "true followers"), whereas apostates reject it.


Seems a fair definition. In short, apostasy involves: (1) the formal renunciation of one's religion; or (2) refers to baptized Christians who left their faith (entirely); and (3) heresy is a rejection of certain doctrines while apostasy is complete abandonment of a religion.

Sorry folks, Beckwith is still a Christian, so he's not apostate. He may be a heretic (or hold "heretical" beliefs) according to Reformed theology, but not according to historical Christian theology (Council of Nicaea forward).

Anyone that agrees with Shane can give me the name of a Christian before Luther (100 AD to 1500 AD) who held the specific Protestant doctrine of justification, otherwise I'll take that as a "no one did" and that McGrath and White are right about the Fathers and Doctors of the Church being ignorant of the Bible. Kind of annihilates the claim they held to "sola scriptura" as well, but that's for another blog comment.


11/12/2007 10:24:00 PM

Shane Trammel said... 

Phil, You make reference to a quote I have from Boniface on my blog and I want to comment on that. I don't even remember where I got that quote and the blog it is on is from one I don't post to any more. I should delete the post since I don't actually know that much about Boniface. Obviously he was a Roman Catholic. If you want to see my blog, you will have to go to http://blog.shanetrammel.com

11/13/2007 12:05:00 AM

P said... 

shane: "I should delete the post since I don't actually know that much about Boniface. Obviously he was a Roman Catholic."

Ah ha, so there WAS a Roman Catholic Church by 750 AD. Now we can just step back century by century, until we reach the apostles. :)

shane: "If you want to see my blog, you will have to go to http://blog.shanetrammel.com "

All right, I clicked on your account name, didn't know you had another one. I don't have a blog, they take up too much time. But I do have a giant Catholic apologetics site that I update every so often. All the best James White, William Webster, Eric Svendsen and other fundy anti-catholic arguments are obliterated there. www.biblicalcatholic.com


11/13/2007 12:54:00 AM

Shane Trammel said... 


For some reason you want to have an ongoing dialogue with me and that is cool. Let me respond to a post of yours a while back, and you say:

"Yeah as does Jesus and the Bible. Matt 16:27; Matt 19:16-21; Matt 25:31-46; 1 Cor 13:2,13; Gal 5:6; Rom 1:5; 2:5-10; 6:16; 16:26; James 2:20-24; 1 John 3:7-10; Rev 22:11-12; and a few dozen more here."

Let me just cover a few of these references.

Matt 16:27 -- has to do with rewards, not salvation.

Matt 19:16-21 -- the Rich young ruler was in love with his money, it was his idol and Jesus knew it. By considering all of scripture, we know that no man is found righteous through the law (Gal. 3:9-13; Rom 3:28; Gal. 2:16). If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Gal. 2:21).

Matt 25:31-46 -- Works are an outer working of a transformed heart. We are called to good works but they do not save us. A person with saving faith will exhibit good works because they are new creature in Christ and they desire to serve Him.

11/13/2007 01:19:00 AM

P said...

shane: "Let me just cover a few of these references."

All right, 1, 2, 3, go.

shane: "Matt 16:27 -- has to do with rewards, not salvation."

And rewards are given on the basis of works or conduct. The context is salvation, or the "Day" of Judgment in Matthew 16:24-28; 25:31-46; Romans 2:5-10; 2 Tim 4:8. God rewards our works and gives us salvation by faith, but ultimately they are God's gifts of grace. Here are some Fathers:

"...our every good merit is produced in us only by grace, and, when God, crowning our merits, crowns nothing else but His own gifts to us..." (St. Augustine, Letters 194:5:19)

"For, 'think not,' saith he, 'because ye have believed, that this is sufficient for your salvation: since if to me neither preaching nor teaching nor bringing over innumerable persons, is enough for salvation unless I exhibit my own conduct also unblameable, much less to you." (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 23, NPNF1: Volume 12, page 133)

"God by his mercy has saved us through Christ. By his grace, we, born again, have received abundantly of his Holy Spirit, so that relying on good works, with him helping us in all things, we might be able thus to lay hold of the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven." (Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Titus 3:7 cited by Robert B. Eno "Some Patristic Views on the Relationship of Faith and Works in Justification" in Justification By Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII [1985], page 115)

shane: "Matt 19:16-21 -- the Rich young ruler was in love with his money, it was his idol and Jesus knew it. By considering all of scripture...."

Stop right there. Jesus doesn't read Galatians and Romans back into his teaching, he says in answer to the question "What must I do to get eternal life?" to "Follow Me." In other words: good works, keeping the commandments (John 14:15; Matt 19:17), according to Jesus.

shane: "Matt 25:31-46 -- Works are an outer working of a transformed heart. We are called to good works but they do not save us."

Sorry, Jesus seems to say they do save us. The context is those who go into eternal life, or eternal punishment, and the criterion is good works, not faith. Although of course faith is implied as well. "Faith alone" if you mean obedience and love is included, the whole person is involved in believing. The "obedience of faith" or "the obedience that faith is" which "leads to righteousness" (Rom 1:5; 6:16; 16:26).


11/13/2007 02:15:00 AM

Tartanarmy said...  quoting an article by John Gerstner:

Solafideanism (justification-by-faith-alone-ism) was taught implicitly, but not explicitly, from the beginning of the church. That is, it was known in the early church that salvation was by faith alone, but not until the sixteenth century was the church called upon to define that teaching more precisely.

Those in the church who had quietly apostasized opposed this essential truth (adherents of Tridentine Roman Catholicism), while the faithful (Protestants), affirmed it. The Reformers defined and refined the doctrine in the fires of controversy.

Faith rather than works were 'repeatedly expressed by the Apostolic Fathers, and re-occur in the Apologetes. . . .' 

The Augsburg Confession (1530), found solafideanism in Augustine's mentor and predecessor, Ambrose, under whose preaching Augustine was converted. Article VI of the Confession speaks of solafideanism: 'The same [justification by faith] is also taught by the Fathers: For Ambrose says, 'It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved freely receiving.''

Though Augustine finds justification and sanctification inseparable, they are not indistinguishable. Augustinian justification leads into sanctification, but is not confused with it. According to Augustine, man's faith in Christ justifies him. Confession of Christ is efficacious for the remission of sins. We are justified by the blood of Christ, and we have no merits which are not the gifts of God.

Of course, faith is active through love (fides quae caritate operatur), but this does not imply that justification is on the basis of love. 

( Rest of this article found here: http://www.apuritansmind.com/Justification/GerstnerJohnJustificationHistory.htm )

( Also this article on the Fathers: http://www.apuritansmind.com/Justification/EarlyChurchJustification.htm )

And then Anselm addresses the dying man: 'Come then, while life remaineth in thee; in his death alone place thy whole trust; in naught else place any trust; to his death commit thyself wholly; with this alone cover thyself wholly; and if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, say, 'Lord, between thy judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; no otherwise can I contend with thee.' And if he shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou: 'Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and thee.' If he say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say: 'Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and thee, and his merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not.' If he say that he is wroth with thee, say: 'Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thy wrath and me.' And when thou hast completed this, say again: 'Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and me.'' See Anselm, Opera (Migne), 1:686, 687.

The above quotation gives us reason to believe that the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith was implicitly, if not explicitly, held by many pious souls through all the ages of papal darkness. 

Thus medieval Scholastics still taught justification as an instantaneous act. It was not until the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that justification was officially confirmed as a process based on human merit derived through divine grace.

by Dr. John Gerstner

11/13/2007 01:31:00 AM

P said... 

quoting John G: "The above quotation gives us reason to believe that the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith was implicitly, if not explicitly, held by many pious souls through all the ages of papal darkness."

You really want to go with this? Ambrose, Augustine, and Anselm held to the Protestant doctrine of justification, implicitly, if not explicitly?

John G: "Thus medieval Scholastics still taught justification as an instantaneous act. It was not until the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that justification was officially confirmed as a process based on human merit derived through divine grace."

Hello? Not until Trent? I heard Gerstner was this famous Reformed theologian, but I didn't know he was that ignorant of the Fathers. It is not based on human merit but God's grace. The merit is God crowning his own gifts. Let's start with St. Augustine:

"Christ's saints imitate Him in order to pursue JUSTICE [Justification]. Whence also the same Apostle says: 'Be imitators of me, even as I am of Christ' [1 Cor 11:1]. But besides this imitation, His GRACE also works WITHIN us our illumination and JUSTIFICATION, by that work of which His same preacher says: 'Neither is he that plants anything, nor he that waters, but He that gives the increase, God' [1 Cor 3:7]." (Forgiveness of Sins 1:9:10)

Justification is infused, it works within us, it is an ongoing, progressive justification, according to Augustine.

"For by this GRACE baptized INFANTS too are ingrafted into His body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive, besides offering Himself as an example of RIGHTEOUSNESS for those who would imitate Him, gives also the most hidden GRACE of His Spirit to believers, GRACE which He secretly INFUSES EVEN INTO INFANTS." (ibid 1:9:10)

Again, justification or righteousness is infused, even into infants at baptism.

"You are the only authorities who suppose that JUSTIFICATION is conferred by the remission alone of sins. Certainly God JUSTIFIES the impious man not only by remitting the evil deeds which that man does, but ALSO by granting LOVE, so that the man may turn away from evil and may DO GOOD THROUGH the Holy Spirit." (Against Julian 2:165)

Is justification merely the remission of sins? No, says Augustine. God justifies us by granting us love so that we may do good through the Holy Spirit. All of this is justification, according to Augustine.

"If therefore, faith entreats and receives JUSTIFICATION, according as God has apportioned to each in the measure of his faith [Rom 12:3], nothing of human merit PRECEDES the grace of God, but grace itself MERITS INCREASE, and the increase MERITS PERFECTION, with the will ACCOMPANYING but not leading, following ALONG but not going in advance." (Letters 186:3:7,10)

Justification and grace is increased and perfected by God in the believer, who cooperates with God.

"What does this mean, 'for our JUSTIFICATION' [Rom 4:25] ? So that He might justify us; so that He might MAKE US JUST. You will be a work of God, not only because you are a man, but also because YOU ARE JUST....He who made you without your consent does not JUSTIFY you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge, but He does not JUSTIFY you without your WILLING it." (Sermons 169:13)

Again, infused righteousness or a real sanctification (making one just or holy or righteous) is involved in justification, with the believer's will cooperating with God. Several more here: http://www.biblicalcatholic.com/apologetics/a98.htm

McGrath did his doctoral dissertation published by Cambridge on the topic. I take his word over Gerstner's.

"However, it will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly FAITHFUL to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, WHERE THE REFORMERS DEPARTED FROM IT [emphasis mine]." (Alister McGrath, from IUSTITIA DEI)

Ambrose and Anselm maybe later. Gerstner is dead wrong.


11/13/2007 02:53:00 AM

P said... 

More St. Augustine on good works and eternal life, from On Grace and Free Will (c. 426-427 AD) :

"This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed [rewarded] with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: 'Without me ye can do nothing' [John 15:5]....We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, 'in the good works which' we have not ourselves prepared, but 'God hath before ordained that we should walk in them' [Eph 2:10]. It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God's grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense [reward] of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously [freely], even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward; grace is for grace, as if remuneration [payment] for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God 'shall reward every man according to his works' [Matt 16:27]." (St. Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 20; NPNF1, volume 5, pages 451-2).

According to St. Augustine:

(1) even a Christian's "good works" belong to the grace of God
(2) these "good works" are recompensed or rewarded with eternal life
(3) your good life is nothing else but God's grace
(4) your eternal life, the reward for a good life, is also God's grace rewarding us (God crowns our merits as his own gifts to us), and is therefore gratuitous or freely given

Along with St. Augustine's texts John 15:5; Eph 2:10; Matt 16:27, we have Col 3:23-25; 2 Tim 4:6-8; Rom 2:5-11; Matt 25:31-46; etc.

Colossians 3:23-25 (NIV) -- Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV) --  For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Romans 2:5-11 (NIV) -- But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.

Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV) -- When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 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. 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, 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.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 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.' 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. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 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.' 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?' 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.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Much more on the Fathers here: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/fathers.html

You'll see this exact teaching in the Council of Trent, Session 6 on Justification, Chapter 16 :

"Therefore, to men justified in this manner, whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received or recovered it when lost, are to be pointed out the words of the Apostle: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord [1 Cor 15:58]. For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name [Heb 6:10]; and, Do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward [Heb 10:35]. Hence, to those who work well unto the end [Matt 10:22; 24:13] and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits [Rom 6:22]. For this is the crown of justice which after his fight and course the Apostle declared was laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming [2 Tim 4:8]. For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches [John 15:1 ff], continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace [Rev 14:13], since Christ our Savior says: 'If anyone shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst forever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting' [John 4:13 ff]. Thus, neither is our own justice established, as our own from ourselves [Rom 10:3; 2 Cor 3:5], nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated, for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is [the justice] of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ.

"Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, Christ promises, shall not lose his reward [Matt 10:42; Mark 9:40]; and the Apostle testifies that, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory [2 Cor 4:17]; nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord [1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17], whose bounty toward all men is so great that He wishes the things that are His gifts to be their merits [cf. St. Augustine, Letters 194:5:19]. And since in many things we all offend [James 3:2], each one ought to have before his eyes not only the mercy and goodness but also the severity and judgment [of God]; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything [1 Cor 4:3 ff]; because the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God [1 Cor 4:5], who, as it is written, will render to every man according to his works [Matt 16:27; Rom 2:6; Rev 22:12]." (Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 16)

I call that true "development of doctrine" since there is a clear trajectory from the apostles (New Testament) to the Fathers (Augustine) and the Councils (Orange, Trent).


11/13/2007 12:29:00 PM

Francis J. Beckwith said... 

Thank you for posting the link to that article on the Fathers. (See A Puritan's Mind link above). A question that was important to me--and that was instrumental in my decision to return to the Catholic Church--was this: How does one account for the ante-Nicean Church practices that seem inconsistent with a Reformed view of justification and grace, e.g, penance, sacramentalism, etc.? It seems that the answer is in the Council of Orange, that justification means more than a mere "legal decree," but that grace is a real thing that actually transforms nature. But if one accepts nominalism, as did Luther, Calvin, etc.--that "grace" and "nature" are merely names that we attribute to actions, wills, and matter, but have no ontological status per se--then one cannot account for the Fathers' view of justification as wholly gracious that transforms both will and soul, though one must cooperate (but even the cooperation is only by God's grace). 

If you are a loving father, would you rather have your child be thought innocent but really be guilty, or would you offer him, if you had the power, the means by which he may inherently change from sinner to saint? Would you rather be good or merely be reckoned good? If the former is better than the latter, and God cannot do less than his best, then it seems that the Catholic understanding of justification best accounts for both the greatness of God and the whole data of Scripture (such as the passages cited by Phil above).

11/13/2007 04:02:00 PM

P said...

johnMark: "This conversation some how has turned into a debate on the ECFs rather than our differences in the understanding of the Gospel."

It began as a debate on what constitutes apostasy. I provided a definition. No one else did. Michael B seems to agree with my definition: it is leaving the Christian faith entirely, and the Christian faith is defined by the historical Creeds and Councils of Christendom, not by a "gospel" that didn't emerge until the 16th century. It became a debate on the early Fathers when I asked who believed this specific Protestant "gospel" before Luther. We know it wasn't St. Augustine, it wasn't the Council of Orange, it wasn't St. Thomas Aquinas. It may have been some of the Fathers or Doctors depending on whether you believe John Gerstner or not, who I rebutted on St. Augustine.

johnMark: "Did someone declare a link war or something?"

Good challenges, but I think I have William Webster beat on Baptism, Eucharist, Papacy, Mary, only because I am more thorough on those doctrines. As for sola scriptura, I'll agree I've only partially responded to the 1100+ pages of Webster/King. Compare Webster's stuff, compare my stuff. Absolutely read them both.

johnMark: "Protestants and Roman Catholics have different understandings of the Gospel and how that affects salvation. That's apparent from the responses on both sides. If both Gospels save then why all the wasted time in writing, reading, etc.?"

Jesus Christ saves, His grace saves, but a particular theory on justification and our understanding or misunderstanding of that doesn't save. The "gospel" that "saves" is defined by St. Paul in 1 Cor 15:1-5 as Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day. Believe and follow Jesus (John 3:16; 3:36; Matthew 19:16-21), that's the basic Christian gospel that "saves" and unites Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants.

We disagree how to fit together all the biblical texts on salvation and justification for a complete theology, but if you read Trent carefully, read the Protestant confessions carefully, there isn't much difference other than some technical definitions over justification (righteousness), sanctification, grace, imputation, infusion. An article that's already been mentioned, but which I re-formatted for my site is by an evangelical theology student (Richard White, 1987 TEDS) on the Roman Catholic gospel. I think he did become a Catholic later. Excellent article:


johnMark: "If we do have serious and grave differences in the Gospel as James White has expressed then people should be concerned. But if being in full communion with Rome doesn't change one's embracing the Gospel as Dr. Bauman seems to have indicated then why the fuss from either side? Given the amount of material and links Phil has posted there is obviously a difference."

James White "creates" grave differences by misrepresenting Catholic doctrine. For example, he continues to say we are not "perfected" by the Catholic gospel. But we are likewise not "perfected" by the Protestant gospel either since sanctification in Protestant theology is an ongoing process. We are still being sanctified or made holy (Heb 12:14), becoming perfected. So we are not "perfected" yet in either Catholic or Protestant or Reformed theology. Catholics include sanctification with justification and begin the salvation process at baptism (1 Cor 6:11; John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21). We have been saved (Eph 2:8), are being saved (1 Cor 1:18), will be saved (Matt 24:13). There are more differences between non-sacramental (baptist, etc) Protestant churches vs. Catholic/Orthodox. But for the sacramental Protestant churches, there are fewer differences.

As for the ministerial priesthood, Real Presence, and the propitiatory nature of the Mass, which White likes to object to often, I invite you to read the Fathers. Their best and most explicit quotations (from Jurgens and Quasten) are found here:


johnMark: "And if a protestant believes that why wouldn't they go ahead and join Rome? They would at least be in greater unity with a larger body, right?"

One can still believe "Rome" is wrong, thus remain Protestant because they believe the truth is in whatever church they think is "more true" and more correctly understands Scripture (and tradition). One doesn't have to condemn "Rome" as apostate, heretical, or blasphemous to believe "Rome" is simply wrong, or less true.

johnMark: "It's funny, James White and others say Rome is wrong and get blasted for it while Psts record numbers of link telling how wrong protestants are and that's no big deal."

None of those links I provided say that Protestantism has a false gospel that damns. I believe you can be saved while misunderstanding the full complete gospel, the true nature of the sacraments, the true Church, etc. What my record numbers of links in here demonstrate is that the Catholic Church is the true Church with the most correct and most complete doctrine. I don't call anyone an apostate, I don't call anyone a heretic, I don't call anyone a blasphemer, I don't say anyone is going to hell. Clear? I say you are mistaken, the Catholic Church is true, and here's why.

johnMark: "So Dr. Beckwith or Dr. Bauman why don't you speak up and tell Phil that disagreements don't make protestants wrong and each presented understanding of the Gospel is valid so drop it?"

"Is valid" in the sense of "can save." Not "is valid" in the sense of "everyone is right." The law of non-contradiction stands. Either the Catholic gospel is fully correct, or the Protestant gospel, or some other gospel. However, I believe the truncated Protestant gospel can still save. There is grace in Protestant churches (or Protestant "ecclesial communions"), according to Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism. We have the same Jesus Christ, believe the same historic Christian creeds.

OK, your turn. I am not running for any hills just yet. Provide a definition of "apostasy" that we can agree on. James White hasn't done this yet.


11/14/2007 06:35:00 PM

P said...

James White: "You have posted many dishonest and false things in this combox. You have said I have not defined apostasy. Anyone who has read my comments knows otherwise."

Thanks for showing not a single thing I posted here that was dishonest. An assertion without evidence. You still have not defined apostasy. You can begin by defining it, using a standard (secular) dictionary or a theological dictionary. And define the word such that we all can agree on the definition. Here is the definition I am working with:


fifth one down, which is also the Wikipedia definition


I am talking about this initial post on your blog where there is no definition of apostasy here:


The closest you come is:

White blog: "Let me make it plain and clear: if I ever confess such things, and deny the perfection of the work of Christ in my behalf, consigning my Lord and Savior to the role of merely making salvation possible if I cooperate enough, please, I beg of my brothers in Christ, have the intestinal fortitude and love of God and His gospel to call me what I would be: an apostate."

So according to this, anyone who doesn't have a 5-point Calvinist view of the atonement and salvation is an apostate. We must deny we cooperate with God or we are "apostate." We must deny that Christ died for all (1 John 2:1-2; 1 Tim 2:4,6; 2 Cor 5:14) or we are "apostate." That is not a definition any Christian (but 5-point Calvinists) will agree on.

Another one, same White blog post: "Since it has been said that it is sinful to identify a convert (or revert) to Rome as an apostate [and please note, I have often said that I do not know if Dr. Beckwith is actually an apostate, since I have yet to find any solid evidence that he ever abandoned Rome's views of man and grace to begin with]"

From this I get: anyone who converts to "Rome" (becomes a Catholic) is an apostate. Again, that is arguing by your definition of apostasy, not by a dictionary definition. As I mentioned, I could simply define "apostate" as someone who goes from Catholicism to Protestantism. That is also not a proper definition.

I've mentioned on the Catholic Answers forums before, I am not a phone kind of person. I do not call into talk shows, although I am a big fan of them and debates, including yours. But remember we have met twice in person, so that shows I am not afraid of you. :) Our first meeting:


On sanctification, I just read your recent blog post. I am not a theologian, but I still see no difference between the Catholic and Protestant teaching that sanctification (or justification in Catholicism) is an ongoing process. We are not yet personally perfected (1 Thess 5:23), we still sin (1 John 1:8-10). Catholics take care of this problem through the sacraments and faith, and Protestants through good works and faith. So yes, every time you state the Catholic gospel does not "perfect" or that it is "man-centered" you are misrepresenting the teaching by not noting the Protestant gospel likewise does not "perfect." Yes, Catholics can go to a thousand Masses and still not be completely sanctified, just as you can pray a thousand times, do a thousand good works, and believe a thousand times in Jesus Christ's perfect work on the cross for your sins and still not be completely sanctified. That's what I'm talking about. I hope I'm not being irreverent.

From your recent blog post: "...and my presentation of the God-centered gospel wherein the elect are united with Christ in His death, so that His perfect righteousness is imputed to them, so that, as I explained here, for example, years ago, they are perfected by that work."

OK, maybe I still misunderstand, but we may be talking about different definitions of "perfection." If you are not yet completely sanctified in spirit, soul, and body while on this earth, you are not yet perfected (1 Thess 5:23; Heb 12:14). That's all I am saying.

The Council of Trent is very clear about the sacrifice of Christ and the objective redemption being perfect and once for all:

"...our God and Lord, though He was BY HIS DEATH about to OFFER Himself ONCE [cf. Heb 7:27; Heb 9:28; Heb 10:10-14] upon the altar of the cross to God the Father that He might THERE ACCOMPLISH AN ETERNAL REDEMPTION [cf. Heb 9:12]....that bloody sacrifice ONCE TO BE ACCOMPLISHED on the cross....by the shedding of His blood HE REDEEMED AND DELIVERED US from the power of darkness and translated us into his kingdom [Col 1:13]....the same Christ who ONCE OFFERED Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross..." (Council of Trent, Session 22)

Where we disagree is over how that objective redemption is applied (the subjective redemption). Yes, I've heard your debates on the Mass. On the Eucharist, I'll go with the Bible and the Fathers:



11/15/2007 01:18:00 AM

Michael Bauman said... 

(1) I don't see the wisdom or untility of continued engagement on the subject of Frank Beckwith's alleged apostasy from Christianity with folks who do not know the definition of apostasy.

(2) I don't see the wisdom or utility of continued engagement on the subject of Frank Beckwith's alleged apostasy from Christianity with folks who cannot distinguish between first century Judaizers and modern Roman Catholics.

(3) I do not see the wisdom or utility of continued engagement on the subject of Frank Beckwith's alleged apostasy from the faith with folks who cannot distinguish between the gospel (faith in Christ, which Frank clearly affirms) and assent to sola fideism (a theory of justification, which Frank does not affirm). Failure to distinguish between them means you do not know the gospel.

(4) I do not see the wisdom or utility of continued engagement on the topic of Frank Beckwith's alleged apostasy from faith in Christ if Frank is not allowed to affirm in his own words whether or not he has faith in Christ. His personal testimony to faith in Christ is every bit as full and compelling as any such confession of faith recorded for us in the Gospels or in Acts. At least the Inquisitors let the accused speak for himself before condemning him. Not here.

Enough. No more pearl casting for me, and no more dusty sandals.

11/15/2007 08:24:00 AM

Francis J. Beckwith said... 

Thank you to my friend, Michael, for offering such a carefully crafted presentation of his thoughts.

Terry, there are several problems with your account of Catholic belief and practice. But the problems all stem from a deeper set of assumptions you bring to your reading. This is why it seems to me that you just don't get. A Christian's cooperation with God's grace contributes no merit to his justification, just as the addition of a human nature contributed nothing to the glory of the second person of the Trinity. Yet, in both cases, something wonderful happened. To think that God's sovereignty is diminished by our cooperation is no different than thinking that Jesus was less divine because he took on a human nature. The key to understanding Catholic theology is to set aside the assumption that it is always a zero-sum game. This is why, in my judgment, the denominational successors of Luther and Calvin eventually abandon Chalcedonian Christianity. They are given a false choice--God or man--and they take man. Hence, we get the social gospel in the early 20th century: either works or grace--and they take works. 

In the Catholic Church, it is not merely about me and my salvation. It is about our being part of a communion of saints, the body Christ, with whom we can receive and share the unearned, and totally gratuitous wonders of God's grace, through baptism, the Eucharist, penance, confession, and all the sacraments. I do nothing without the initiation of the Holy Spirt. It is not my merit; it is his. And yet, there is a mystery here. I cooperate with this grace, but I contribute nothing to it. I am allowing the grace of God to transform me. And yet, it is wholly God's doing. 

I am confident of my eternal fate, but confidence in that eternal fate is not the entirety of one's life. God not only wants you to get to heaven, he wants to get heaven into you. He does so by grace that has the power to change nature. 

That's the only way to make sense of the apparently disparate accounts of grace, faith and practice in the New Testament. That's why the Council of Orange's conclusions were such a wonderful presentation of the deliverances of God's word.

Like Mike, I am finished here. 

I'm at ETS in San Diego right now. Tomorrow morning--Friday--I will be participating in a panel discussion on my new book, Defending Life. On Saturday--at 4pm--I will be on a panel at the American Academy of Religion (Manchester Hyatt Hotel) where a few of us--including Scott Hahn and Paul Griffiths--our conversions to Catholicism. You can read more about it here:


11/15/2007 11:15:00 AM 

posts edited by P, with contributions from Frank Beckwith, James White, Shane Trammel and others

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