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Monday, February 27, 2012

To certain enthusiastic Lutherans: This is the substance of what I was trying to say today. Have we indeed reached a point when--irrespective of doubts about doctrinal development--the principal doctrinal dispute at the time of the Reformation has been resolved...in favor of the Catholic Church? I beg pardon if my manner of expression lacks a certain nicety common to the diplomats. Nevertheless, the point holds.

14 comments:

Timothy R. Butler said...

Never fear, justification by faith is as relevant as ever. The trouble isn't whether faith and works come together, it is a question of how they relate.

Jason said...

But the whole point of the Reformation is to say that faith cannot be conjoined to anything, (like agape) lest it contradict a monergistic soteriology, and our implied total inability. Ask Scott Clark; he went ballistic at the suggestion by the ECT or anyone that faith works by love. Now, whether Clark represents Reformed theology in practice or he is as "fully orbed" as Reformed leaders fancy themselves is a different matter. He does accurately reflect the historic position as it emerged in opposition.

Jason said...

See also comments 8 & 9 of a Called to Communion post, "Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?": Why is it that the Protestant and the Catholic can each sincerely affirm the truth of each of those verses? Because the Protestant believes that when St. Paul says ‘faith’ or ‘believing’, St. Paul is meaning “faith and not agape.” The Catholic, by contrast, believes that when St. Paul says ‘faith’ or ‘believing’, St. Paul is using the term here in a broader sense, such that the other two theological virtues (i.e. hope and agape) are included together with it. The verses themselves do not specify which sense of the term ‘faith’ is in use here, and hence do not answer the question, or show us who is right. Someone could claim that Romans 4:5 shows that the justified person is simultaneously justified and ungodly, and hence simultaneously justified and devoid of agape.

Bryan,

Maybe you are just guilty here of painting with too broad a brush and in reality you are only talking about some Evangelicals, but historic Protestantism does not believe what you say above. We cannot be “simultaneously justified and devoid of agape.” This is seen in the fact that we differentiate between fiducia and merely notitia or assensus. We say that only the former can justify.

Also, note that Protestants historically hold that regeneration logically precedes justification which means that we cannot be justified by a faith devoid of love. If God has regnerated us and given us a new heart then our justification cannot be something devoid of love.

But perhaps your critique is just of some Evangelicals?

9.Bryan Cross September 3rd, 2009 1:38 pm :

Andrew,

In my post, I mentioned this statement made by Pope Benedict in November of 2008:

“For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love.

Responding to Pope Benedict’s statement, R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History & Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary wrote the following:

That conditional, that “if,” makes all the difference in the world. That one little conditional is the difference between Rome and Wittenberg. Why? After all, Protestants affirm that faith alone is not opposed to charity (love) or sanctification. That’s certainly true, but the question here is whether [...] Benedict means by “faith” what we mean by it and whether we’re talking about the same justification and the same role of faith? For us Protestants, charity is the fruit and evidence of justification. Is it so for Benedict? If so, he’s abandoned his own catechism and magisterial Roman dogma since 1547. That would be remarkable indeed!

According to Clark, charity is the fruit and evidence of justification; charity plays no role in justification (that would be to abandon sola fide). But in the Catholic position, only a faith conjoined with charity is a justifying faith. So if Clark is wrong, then, given what he said, there is no real difference between “Rome and Wittenberg”, and Protestants should all come back to the Catholic Church. But, if Clark is right, then we can be and are justified by a “faith devoid of love”, because love is the *fruit* of justification, not something that must be conjoined to faith in order for that faith to be justifying.

Do you think Clark does not represent historic Protestantism, and has fallen into Evangelicalism?

Timothy R. Butler said...

That's my point in saying the question is how they relate. Only antinomians deny that faith produces good works. The question is whether one needs good works to be justified, and we (and, I think, the best reading of Paul) say no.

Bryan's exegesis of Romans is peculiar... I'm not really sure how to respond to it, so I think I'm just going to pass it by.

Jason said...

Perhaps the birthday boy could clarify. But without knowing the nature of the confusion he caused, it might prove unfruitful.
But I can assure you, it is not novel.

Jamie Stober said...

To certain excitable Roman Catholic friends: The reason for which I offered the high commendation of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification as being worth more than "a big stinky pile of orangutan doodie" is not because the issue has been resolved in Protestant eyes in favor of the Roman Catholic Church but because it and other explorations of the question bring into sharp relief for us the small but vastly important difference of meaning in our formulations of justification. We have not resolved the issue. I will attempt to show why in response to Bryan's illuminating blog post you directed me to, but I see that you and Tim have beaten me to the punch with a spirited discussion here.

Jamie Stober said...

I guess I will start here just by saying that agape is very likely present with the faith of the one justified at the moment of justification, but what the Reformers are trying to say by "faith alone" is that the ground of justification is not the love of the believer for God but the love of God for the believer.

Furthermore, faith is not located exclusively in the intellect in the Protestant conception of faith. In the Institutes 3.2.8, Calvin says, "Faith is more of the heart than of the brain, and more of the disposition than of the understanding. . . . Faith can in no wise be separated from a devout disposition." He also says, "Faith is a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Institutes 3.2.7). WCF 14.1 defines faith "as the work of the Spirit of Christ in our hearts." In the Defense of the Augsburg Confession 4.48, Melancthon says, "that faith which justifies is not merely a knowledge of history . . . but it is to assent to the promise of God, in which, for Christ's sake, the remission of sins and justification are freely offered. [It is the certainty or the certain trust in the heart, when, with my whole heart, I regard the promises of God as certain and true, through which there are offered me, without my merit, the forgiveness of sins, grace, and all salvation, through Christ the Mediator.] And that no one may suppose that it is mere knowledge, we will add further: it is to wish and to receive the offered promise of the remission of sins and of justification. [Faith is that my whole heart takes to itself this treasure. . . ." In the Smalcald Articles 3.13, Luther says that faith gives one "a new and clean heart."

Timothy R. Butler said...

I was referring to Romans 4.5, where Bryan seems to create a contradiction of sorts. I don't see how a discussion of one being justified and devoid of love factors into what Paul is saying. If one was entirely devoid of agape, could one even have faith in another entity of any sort? In any case, since God is the one who brings forth faith and love, the point is that the person is not working, _God_ is working in calling, justifying and sanctifying.

Principium Unitatis said...

Tim,

What, exactly, is this alleged "contradiction," I have created?

(As you know from your training in philosophy, I shouldn't have to be asking this question. When you raise an objection, you have an obligation to spell out your objection; otherwise it is just a cheap shot.)

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Timothy R. Butler said...

Well, I was going to pass on it, but felt I needed to say something, since Jason responded with your post. However, he pressed further, so I responded a bit more. No cheap shots involved; nor was I plying my philosophical craft in any technical sense, just debating with the noble comrade. (I am also depending solely on the context of Jason's quote and, now that I'm rereading it, it may be his words and not yours... I'm not certain whose words they are. Maybe I owe you an apology and should say JK's peculiar exegesis instead...)

Anyway, someone said this: "Someone could claim that Romans 4:5 shows that the justified person is simultaneously justified and ungodly, and hence simultaneously justified and devoid of agape." I suppose someone *could* claim anything, but there seems to be no logical reason for doing so. Clearly language has certain limits, so while someone could claim blue is really green, one could not do so in any reasonable sense. Likewise, to claim someone is justified and devoid of agape seems contradictory, since that means one hates the one doing the justifying at the point where one has been justified.

That is to say the disagreement isn't over whether one who is justified also performs good works. (At least not amongst the vast majority of Protestants.) The question is whether the good works brought forth justification (i.e. synergism) or are brought forth by justification (i.e. monergism).

The examples Paul gives make the point clear: neither David nor Abraham do anything particular to merit God's covenantal grace. They seem just as flawed as everybody else, yet God chooses them. That said, in response to their choosing, God brought forth belief and the process of sanctification seems to show that they do make progress towards faithful love towards God. We see no examples in Scripture of someone who hates God and is unrepentant until the end and yet is saved.

I think to expect that Paul was referring to "theological virtues," however, is terribly anachronistic. We ought not read a technical, theological term where Paul is simply speaking vernacular, everyday Koine. The answer to what Paul means is not in the term πιςτευω, but rather the context of Abraham and David...

Jason said...

No, I don't have anything much invested in Romans 4:5 in particular. Go on.

Principium Unitatis said...

Tim,

I don't think you owe me an apology, because it is not an insult or personal attack. I noticed from our FB exchanges that a significant percentage of my responses to your comments was not yet about the substance of the theological questions, but about the manner of dialogue -- and I'm not talking about courtesy or graciousness; you've been fine there. The problem has been a failure to follow the rules of rational discourse, rules that distinguish it from mere sophistry. One of those rules is that if you raise an objection, you need to spell it out, otherwise it is a cheap shot, not genuine engagement in a mutual truth-pursuing dialogue. So, if I said, "Tim's position is full of holes," or "Tim's position is incoherent," but didn't spell out how or where, that would be a cheap shot. Or, if you were to say, "Bryan's exegesis is peculiar," but then did not produce the evidence/argumentation showing that it is objectively peculiar (and not just peculiar in the sense that you've haven't seen it before), and that its being objectively peculiar shows it to be false or inferior compared to some alternative exegesis, that too would be a cheap shot. The cheap shot approach is about 'scoring points,' whereas truth-seeking dialogue is about coming to agreement on the truth and following the golden rule. And those are two, wholly distinct activities, as Socrates explains in the Gorgias.

What I've come to realize is that ecumenical dialogue, in order to be fruitful, requires preliminary formation in these rules of rational dialogue, and thus the development of intellectual virtues (habits) that are necessary in order even to enter into genuine, ecumenical dialogue, rather than the 'debate' that typically takes place on FB and other online venues, which typically is all about 'scoring points' with the crowd, through 'zingers,' and 'gotchas' and innuendos, and all that sort of thing. I'm not talking about motives, but about habits of discourse. So, the first step, it seems to me, is recognizing and developing and cultivating the right sort of habits of discourse, in order to reach agreement concerning the truth.

(cont.)

Principium Unitatis said...

(cont.)

Regarding the theological substance of your comment, you wrote, "to claim someone is justified and devoid of agape seems contradictory, since that means one hates the one doing the justifying at the point where one has been justified." From a Reformed point of view, there is no such thing as "doing the justifying at the point where one has been justified." Once one has been justified, there is no more justifying to do; the accounts have already been swapped. (Of course there is in Reformed theology the notion of 'justification' in the eyes of men, but that's an entirely different sense of the term, and presumably you agree that Rom 4:5 is not about justification in the eyes of men.)

So the time in question, from a Reformed point of view, is the very moment of justification, not some subsequent point in time when one "has been justified." And at that moment, it is not incoherent from a Reformed point of view for God to declare a person who hates God, to be justified, because the divine declaration is not based on anything in the person, (agape or anything else) but on a divine accounting swap that is extra nos. Of course Reformed theology can stipulate that God always instantly infuses agape at exactly the same instant He imputes Christ's righteousness, so that no one He declares just is at that same moment devoid of agape. But the Reformed notion of justification does not depend on that stipulation. Just as God, on the basis of Christ's righteousness can declare a sinner to be just while that sinner simultaneously remains sinful, so God can declare a God-hater to be simultaneously just, on the basis of Christ's righteousness. The hating of God is not some special sin that imputation cannot cover. That's why there is no contradiction, given the Reformed concept of imputation, in the notion of a person who is simul iustus et Dei-osor.

Principium Unitatis said...

(cont.)

You wrote: "That is to say the disagreement isn't over whether one who is justified also performs good works. (At least not amongst the vast majority of Protestants.) The question is whether the good works brought forth justification (i.e. synergism) or are brought forth by justification (i.e. monergism)."

The Catholic teaching is not that good works bring about initial justification. That would be Pelagianism. So that's not the point of disagreement. See my "A Reply from a Romery Person."

You wrote: "I think to expect that Paul was referring to "theological virtues," however, is terribly anachronistic. We ought not read a technical, theological term where Paul is simply speaking vernacular, everyday Koine."

I see your assertion, and, if you think we're going to resolve the disagreement by trading assertions, I'll just assert the opposite, and make it even. But more seriously, I've written a short article related to this, titled "The Tradition and the Lexicon." In it I explain why the hermeneutical 'rule' to which you are appealing is a question-begging rule, not a theologically neutral rule.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan