Romans on Romans: Drivel or drool

I present three Roman Catholic views on “faith and works.”

Catholic Answers Forum

Here is a recent question on Catholic Answers Forum: “Are the teachings of Paul, specifically in the book of Romans easily understood?” A comment from a reader: “As there is the teaching of salvation by Grace alone – and the scriptures are arranged — it’s called the Roman road study– by faith alone not by (catholic) works. But in the catholic religion it is confusing and not easily understood.” Response from Catholic Answers: “Sorry, but this is simply not true. We Catholics do not believe in salvation by works. We believe in salvation by grace. Faith and good Christian works are results and fruits of God’s grace.(Italics added).

Council of Trent

The Council of Trent was convened to counter the Protestant Reformation. Here is Canon 24 of the Council of Trent:  If anyone says that justice [justification] received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely fruits and signs of justification obtained, not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Council of Trent sixth session, celebrated on the thirteenth day of January, 1547, Decree concerning Justification).” (Italics added). Trent (and modern Rome?) says it believes in justification by faith but will not say it believes in justification by faith alone, which is the main pillar of Protestant Reformation. (See Trent above). Trent has, in retrospect, anathematised, that is, cursed, damned to hell – the expert on the “Catholic Answers Forum.”

Contrary to Trent’s view of Protestants above, the Protestant believes most firmly that works are “the fruits and signs of justifications obtained” This Protestant position, though, would not say that works are “merely” (Trent above) the fruits of justification, because this might create the impression that works don’t matter in salvation. If you are an evangelical Christian and someone asks you, “Do you believe in faith alone?, you’ll politely growl – if the questioner is another evangelical Christian – “What a dumb question, of course I do!” The meaning of “faith alone” is that one is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works. That is not to say that faith is found alone, for works are involved, but not as part of your justification but as part of your salvation. The general Protestant view is that works are the fruits and signs of justification obtained. It also matters much what kind of good works you do once you believe – not for the purposes of salvation but because “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). (See Faith and Jerks: The Bible out of context is a con; that’s why James White is not going to hell and David Stern’s Torah “Torah” in the Justification of sinners: A legalistic spanner in the works).

What is the latest Roman view? Here is Pope Francis on faith and works, or rather faith or works:  If the Roman Catholic sources are true, it’s all about loving kindness, good works. Justification (reconciliation with God) says Pope Francis, is no longer about faith AND good works, but solely about works You can be an atheist, says Pope Francis, on condition that you’re good and kind.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The Holy Father is full of surprises, born of true and faithful humility. On Wednesday he declared that all people, not just Catholics, are redeemed through Jesus, even atheists. However, he did emphasize there was a catch. Those people must still do good. In fact, it is in doing good that they are led to the One who is the Source of all that is good. In essence he simply restated the hope of the Church that all come to know God, through His Son Jesus Christ.”

The Vatican, it seems is alarmed, at best; no wonder, for Pope Francis is indeed, if not in deed, trashing Trent. Here is Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8: [I)t is most truly said that faith without works is dead and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity [love].” Francis has thrown faith out of the Sistine into the cistern.

What is a Roman Catholic to believe? For starters, the Bible is clear: without faith in Christ, you will, after you leave this body, die the second death. Second, without one’s works, one cannot be saved. So salvation involves both faith (which alone makes us justified before God) ands works, the fruit of faith. But what to make of Paul’s “justification by faith without works” and James’s “one cannot be justified without works? Here is Craig Keener:

[W]hen Paul says that a person is justified by faith without works (Rom 3:28), his context makes it clear that he defines faith as something more than passive assent to a viewpoint; he defines it as a conviction that Christ is our salvation, a conviction on which one actively stakes one’s life (Rom 1:5). James declares that one cannot be justified by faith without works (James 2:14)—because he uses the word “faith” to mean mere assent that something is true (2:19), he demands that such assent be actively demonstrated by obedience to show that it is genuine (2:18). In other words, James and Paul use the word “faith” differently, but do not contradict one another on the level of meaning. If we ignore context and merely connect different verses on the basis of similar wording, we will come up with contradictions in the Bible that the original writers would never have imagined. (“Biblical Interpretation” by Craig Keener). (See A Calvinist drools over the ORDO SALUTIS: Justification, and Salvation by works).

There are actually only two real denominations: drivel and drool.

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7 thoughts on “Romans on Romans: Drivel or drool

  1. The apostle Paul specifically addressed the question of salvation by grace through faith as opposed to keeping the Jewish Law (613 Laws of the Torah). Although, the principle of keeping Catholic Law for salvation is the same. Paul wrote; 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and [ah]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” Galatians 2:15-21 NASB

    • David, as you know, Roman Catholicism would argue that Paul is talking about the ceremonial law and not about the moral law (10 commandments). This, however, is incorrect. Paul, elsewhere makes it clear that “works” equates “law.”

      What do you think of the blatant contradiction between the three RC views!

      • we read Paul as first or second readings before the reading of the Gospel and it is read by the priest and everybody gets up and sign themselves with the Cross.
        I don’t understand why you protestants keep reading and rereading Paul without understanding the historical contests and the intentions of Paul for what he said. I understand better now why the RCC has chosen to separate the reading of the Gospel from any other reading present in the Bible.
        Do you understand why you are keeping rewriting the same passages from Paul without considering the historical purposes of what he writes? And why you never never consider the four Gospel where Christ Himself is saying how the works are important to be saved? Is there any bad faith in what you are considering? If I were in you I would consider very carefully what does contradict what you are saying in the examples and parables of Christ…but you are more concern about what Paul speaks about when he is trying to built the church of Christ in his own times and considering the first followers of Christ. Anyway whatever you say is right….in consideration of your own personal purposes and psychology of what is acceptable and what not. Also as I already wrote to you the Pope is not going against anything essential. At least for sure he is not going against anything important less than you do by Calvin and your own initiative. Naturally every time I keep repeating the parables of Christ about how important are good works…in so many of them…you slide not so smoothly  but your effort is so great that you are supposed to feel the strain of it…why are you doing it? Is for the love of the truth or the love of your own truth for your own personal reason? If I had to state and restate over and over the same battles with the Catholic Church while RCC doesn’t consider arguing with the same effort or consideration against your denomination since Trento in many many ways (RCC has beeen ignoring your great desire to argue for centuries ) I would tell myself…perhaps I am completely wrong. Are you completely unaware of how RCC does not consider important to argue with you since Trento? Why are you instead still doing and doing it…I am never again arguing…it’s is my personal Trento with you 🙂 It is final…and I am not a pope who could retreat the councils at any moment…but I don’t think any pope is going to do it. After all the RCC has won the historical battle in great style 🙂 since Trento but the point is not in winning the battles of arguments but let it be peace

        • Hello Maria, nice to hear from you again.

          Would you say then that the expert on Catholic Answers is wrong when he says:

          Response from Catholic Answers: “Sorry, but this is simply not true. We Catholics do not believe in salvation by works. We believe in salvation by grace. Faith and good Christian works are results and fruits of God’s grace.

          • I have an possible answer for you.Luther did make some ‘addiction’ to his readings…Did you know it?
            http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/doesnt-john-316-clearly-indicate-that-faith-alone-is-necessary-for-salvation

            “First of all, the Catholic view of salvation is not faith plus works, if by works you mean purely human efforts to win God’s favor.

            Catholics believe in salvation by grace alone, yet grace must not be resisted, either before justification (by remaining in unbelief) or after (by engaging in serious sin). Read carefully 1 Corinthians 6, Galatians 5, and Ephesians 5.

            Second, the Bible nowhere uses the expressions “justification by faith alone” or “salvation by faith alone.” The first was directly the invention of Luther; the second his by implication. Luther inserted “alone” into the German translation of Romans 3:28 to give credence to his new doctrine

            • Maria, yes the Bible doesn’t say faith ALONE, but, as you must agree (re: your “Catholics believe in grace alone”), one is justified (accepted by, reconciled to God) by faith alone; but not by faith that is alone.

              What I mean is this: salvation is a process consisting of this causal progression:

              1. justification (grace regenerates sinners and grants them the gift of faith).
              2. sanctification through works that God prepares for us (Ephesians 2:10).
              3. glorification (after this life).

              “Sanctification” (holiness) is not only the result of works but is already implanted at the moment of regeneration (“born again” – John 3). “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9).

              Maria, What is your understanding of “works?”

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