Thursday, July 26, 2012

Credit or Debit? Justification in scripture vs Roman Catholicism

Romans 4:4-5 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

Credit or Debit?
Whenever I go to a gas station or grocery store, the clerk will usually ask the question: Will that be credit or debit?  A New York Times Article on this subject states: "Debit cards are linked to your bank account so the money you spend is automatically deducted from your account."1   Then in distinguishing credit cards, the article defines them: "Credit cards basically allow you to use someone else’s money (the card issuer’s) to make a purchase while you pay the money back later." 2

When we consider the difference between the biblical view of Justification by Faith Alone vs the Roman Catholic view of justification, we can liken both to a Perfectly pure credit based system of salvation vs a debt based system of salvation.

The Biblical View - Credited Righteousness
As we saw in yesterday's post, the Bible teaches that at saving faith, God credits or "imputes" the righteousness of Jesus Christ to the sinner, thus making him or her positionally right with God.  This crediting of righteousness means that all the sinner's debts have been paid in full.  From that standpoint, the Bible then teaches that the saint of God will grow experientially in the practice of right godly living, or sanctification.  The ability to live the Christian life stems from the Holy Spirit working through sanctifying grace, which is distinguished but nonetheless rooted in the justifying grace received by faith at salvation.

The Biblical view of Christ's credited righteousness means the bill for salvation is paid in full for believers
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  The Biblical view of justification by faith alone has the righteousness of Christ being credited to the believer.  Unlike the credit of credit cards, there is no bill coming from God, expecting the believer to "hold up his end of the bargain" so as to make payments.  Romans 4:4-5 states: "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness."

The Biblical view of Christ's credited righteousness provides the basis for wanting to live right for God
Often I have heard the accusation that for God to credit a sinner at salvation with a righteousness that is not His own amounts to some type of legal fiction.  Furthermore, some will say that the crediting of Christ's righteousness leads to a person living anyway they want, since God forgives no matter what.  True saving faith receives the grace of justification by itself.  However the believer's life from thereon is characterized by a faith that aims to live right for God.  James 2:26 states: "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead". 

In the credit based system of biblical salvation, I have the infinite merit of Jesus Christ's righteousness to draw from in living the Christian life.  There is no credit limit, and furthermore, it is by using that credit of His righteousness that I more and more begin to look like the One who issues the credit!  As I use the credit of Jesus Christ, I learn how to live for God plus I gain the desire to want to live for Him. By being in Christ, and he working through me, God's declaration of me as righteous is not fictional - but factual! (Philippians 2:12-13) 

The Roman Catholic System - Debt Based view of salvation
In the Roman Catholic system, the type of righteousness in their view of justification is not Christ's righteousness, but the believer's righteousness.  Furthermore, there is no "crediting" or "imputing" of Christ's righteousness to the sinner's account, rather, in the Roman Catholic perspective, God "infuses" or "begins to pour in" gradual righteousness into the sinner. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells this out:  "The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity." 3

A debt based system of salvation leads to the impossible of finding assurance
This righteousness of the believer is begun in the Roman Catholic rite of baptism, and must be maintained through confession, participation in the Mass and the whole Roman Catholic system.  In short, the individual is always in debt.  Roman Catholicism teaches that one can lose their status of rightness (or justification) before God, and thus must reconnect via confession, paying penance and the Mass.  In Roman Catholic thought, justification and sanctification are one and the same.  This confusion leads to trying to attain right standing before God, since in Roman Catholic thinking, one cannot be declared righteous by God until they are actually righteous. 

So which would you have? Credit or debit?
The Biblical view of Justification by faith alone advocates the crediting of Christ's righteousness to the one who receives salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  Roman Catholicism teaches that in order for God to declare me righteous, I have to become actually righteous by my faith, plus baptism and participation in the Roman Catholic system.  The first one is credit based, meaning the price of my salvation is paid in full and applied to me in saving faith, resulting in me wanting to live right as I draw from the infinite merit of Jesus Christ.  Roman Catholicism is debt based, meaning that I can never be assured of whether I truly right with God, since I'm attempting to achieve right standing through faith in the Roman Catholic system. 

I would urge you today dear friend, if you have not done so, to by faith enter into God's credit based system which is from Jesus Christ and by Jesus Christ.  (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) 
End Notes
1 Jennifer Barrett, New York Times January 6 2009.
2  Jennifer Barrett, New York Times January 6 2009.
3  Catechism of the Catholic Church


  1. I think you have a wrong understanding of what the *Bible* itself teaches about "reckoning". In my study of the issue, the concept of "crediting" in the sense of transferring a balance is not at all what the Greek word means. I highly suggest you check out this link:

    It goes where no Protestant has ever gone or dares to go with Scripture study, and that says a lot.

    1. Dear Nick:

      I looked at Devin Rose's blogsite and read his testimony. I looked for the article dated June 6, 2012, but could not find it. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong spot. I'm glad to hear from you again. In the whole debate on justification four fundamental questions must be answered: first, whose righteousness provides the grounds for justification - God's or the sinner's? Secondly, by what means is justifying grace received - faith alone or faith plus something else? Thirdly, is faith alone deemed sufficient by God for receiving justifying grace, or does baptism need to be included? Then finally, what is the nature of the righteousness in justification - is it imputed(credited) all at once or is it infused into the sinner over a period of time? How one answers these four questions will determine whether they come to Biblical or unbiblical conclusions. The matter of justification truly is central to the Gospel. I'm not certain if you have read my blogs for the past two weeks on the subject of Roman Catholicism. I've aimed to be fair and honest. If not, I would invite you to do so.

  2. Hello,

    The Link (Here) seems to be working to me.

    Regarding your questions:

    (1) We would both agree it is God's righteousness that provides the grounds for justification, the dispute is what this "righteousness" even means and whether God imputes or infuses it to the sinner.

    (2) Your second question is directly dependent on the first. I don't grant the idea that faith is to be understood as a hand that "receives" anything because that's not what the Bible teaches faith even means (Heb 11:1,6).

    (3) See my answer to #2 above. I believe the Bible clearly teaches that Baptism is the instrumental cause by which we're forgiven and receive justifying graces, but I fully understand that this makes no sense if "justifying grace" here is something imputed, for Baptism receiving an imputed righteousness makes little sense.

  3. Dear Nick:

    I've been reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and found this quote in paragraph #1992 under the section "Grace and Justification" in Part Three "Life in Christ", Section One: "Man's Vocation Life in the Spirit"; Chapter Three: "God's Salvation Law and Grace":

    "Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life."

    The CCC then quotes Romans 3:21-26 as a support verse.

    Some questions:
    1. Why does the CCC appeal to this text when there is no mention of justification being conferred through baptism. If anything, the text states that Justification is receive by faith without anything else, agreeing with the position of Justification by Faith Alone.

    2. The CCC points out that Christ's work on the cross merited justification. The Objective side of salvation is clearly in view here, of which Romans 3:21-24 supports. I find no argument, and could not more agree.

    However concerning the subjective side, or application of salvation, The CCC spells it out as being conferred through baptism. I can find no support in Romans 3:21-26 for justification being applied through means of baptism. In Romans 3:22,25 and 26 we only see faith by itself as being necessary and sufficient for receiving such justification. The Holy Spirit applies Christ's merit to the sinner by grace alone through faith alone, which is the whole point of Romans 3:21-26.

    3. What does Roman Catholic Theology teach concerning the nature of Old Testament saints and their justification? The New Testament appeals to Abraham as the father of faith and has the picture of justification by faith. The Scripture makes it clear that justification in the Old Testament is identical with the New.

    I hope we can truly dialogue. My aim will not be to misrepresent Roman Catholicism. That tactic is unfruitful, unfair and unChristian. I felt your remarks in your last response were aiming to be fair. Certainly your observation about "baptism receiving an imputed righteousness as making little sense" was fair, and I believe it highlights the fundamental differences between Roman Catholic and Baptist/Protestant views of justification.

  4. In response to your questions:

    (1) Justification being through Baptism was not the focus of the paragraph, the more fundamental point that was being made here is that Justification comes through the Passion.

    (2) The paragraph called Baptism "the Sacrament of Faith," because it is a visible profession of one's faith. This is why Baptism accompanies nearly every conversion account in the New Testament. Other texts of Scripture show that Baptism really does something for the individual relating to getting justified, such as 1 Cor 6:11 and Titus 3:4-7. Paul is summarizing Salvation History in Romans 3:21ff, he is not going into every detail.

    (3) In substance, the Justification of the Old Testament saints was identical with that of the New Testament Saints: salvation came through the Cross. But the visible signs by which these saints became saved was not identical since the full picture had not been revealed. The doctrine of the Trinity was only a glimmer in the eye of the OT Saints, and the Suffering Messiah and Resurrection was only seen in shadows by them. As time went on, more and more specific instructions were given by God so how as to more visibly signify one's union with Christ.

    Certain Protestant traditions, particularly the Baptist one, has had a habit of 'Anti-Sacramentalism' in which the Sacraments are viewed as purely symbolic so as to marginalize them into no significance. The Salvation Army took this to the logical conclusion and said Baptism and Eucharist are not part of a regular Christian's life and thus are not performed within Salvation Army services, but they don't object if one desires to partake in these purely optional rites in other denominations. On the flip side, Luther and Lutherans hold a very 'high' view of Baptism and speak in a manner very similar to Catholics (so much so that many Protestants get uncomfortable). For example Luther's Large Catechism teaches:

    "28] But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. 29] But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure? ... 35] But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God's (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper's baptism). God's works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended."

    So Luther and Lutherans today see no dilemma with including baptism with faith alone. They deny Baptism is a "work" and yet is part of faith alone and essential to salvation.

    1. In response to your comments:
      1. In my reading of scripture, the Bible makes a two-fold distinction in the work of redemption: the objective accomplishment of salvation by Christ and the subjective application of that accomplishment by the Holy Spirit. The objective side had Christ in His life earning the righteousness needed for justification and in His death purchasing forgiveness, reconciliation, satisfaction for sin and removal of the penalty of sin. (Eph 1:7; Romans 5; 2 Cor 5:15-21). The subjective side has the Holy Spirit giving in grace the divine giftings of faith and repentance, whereby the sinner makes a decision for Christ. I don’t doubt that Roman Catholic theology affirms the necessity of faith for justification to occur (I’ve read many non-Catholic sources accuse Roman Catholicism of plain works salvation, which I believe to be a misrepresented caricature). The difference lies in that faith by itself is not viewed as sufficient, whereas in most Protestant and all Baptist circles, Faith alone is sufficient to receive justification.
      2. You are correct that Baptism accompanies nearly every instance of conversion in the New Testament. Baptists have understood the one baptism solidly affirmed in Ephesians 4:4-5 to have two aspects. The first is that of Spirit baptism, wherein the Holy Spirit unites a believer to Christ in conversion. (John 7:37-39; 1 Cor 12:12-13; 1 Cor 6:11; Romans 6:4-5; Titus 3:4-7) The second aspect is water baptism, which the believer follows through in obedience to Christ, publically portraying and re-enacting for seeing eyes the miracle of conversion that took place. (Acts 2:38-41, 16:33, 18:8, 22:1; Galatians 3:27) It is the event of Spirit Baptism that supplies the meaning and mode of water baptism. The meaning of course being participation in Christ's death, burial and resurrection; with the mode being of course immersion. In the sacramental systems of Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and to an extent, Church of Christ movements, this distinction is collapsed, making the Spirit baptism simultaneous with water baptism. In Presbyterian and Baptist circles, the distinction is retained. I would advocate that distinguishing the two is reflective of the testimony of God’s Word.

      3. I hear your concern over those groups which make baptism an option for the Christian. I firmly believe groups such as the Salvation Army went too far. When I baptize folks, I always say that baptism, though not being essential to salvation, is nonetheless essential to obedience. As a Baptist I do believe something of spiritual value to the saint of God does occur in baptism. Though I would never advocate baptismal regeneration, nonetheless the Spirit of God affirms a believer at Baptism, through the witnessing celebration of God’s people. Though primarily a symbol, baptism is a sign, signifying a greater unseen reality – the miracle of regeneration that occurred beforehand in the Spirit baptism of that saint at saving faith. Like Jesus’ baptism, the saint is enabled to operate under an open heaven of understanding. Not every group that uses the term “sacrament” in describing baptism uses it to refer to a converting grace. Presbyterian, Reformed Baptists and others flying under the banner of the Reformation commonly used the term “sacrament” to refer to the saints being strengthened by Christ. I noticed that following the Reformation, self-identified Baptist Groups began to use the term "ordinance” to distinguish themselves from the Roman Catholic belief system. As a general pattern, most other Baptist groups from that time to present have used the term "ordinance" as opposed to "sacrament". An ordinance is that which was ordained by Christ to the church in the Gospels, preached in Acts and explained in the Epistles.

    2. Hello again,

      Sorry for the delay.

      (1) When you speak of "the objective accomplishment of salvation by Christ," that in itself is defined very differently by Catholics and Protestants. While the Incarnation, Passion, Cross, and Resurrection were one-time events, there is no "finished work of Christ" in the sense that Jesus passed an SAT test in your place and now you're accepted into Princeton. The fundamental difference between Catholic and Protestant views of Salvation is that for Catholicism and Scripture, Salvation is principally about entering into a relationship with the Trinity, where as for Protestantism it is principally about passing a test and only subsequently and incidentally about relationship. So from the Catholic view, you're saved as long as you remain in a relationship with the Trinity, where as in your view you're saved in virtue of a test being passed. Can you see how the 'center' of each soteriology is radically different? In your view, any 'works' are seen as trying to supplant Christ's "A+" on the test, where as in our view there is no such concept of "A+" because it isn't a academic/merit based soteriology. Instead, Baptism unites us to the Trinity, it's gateway, not an 'achievement'; it isn't a 'good work' that we 'check off' on on list. Thus while Faith in your view is an "empty hand" that receives the Diploma of Christ, in the Catholic view Faith spiritually unites the creature to God.

      (2) The notion of "Spirit Baptism" is fictitious from the Catholic, Patristic, and Biblical point of view. With very few exceptions, "Baptism" in Scripture refers exclusively to water baptism. Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, and many Presbyterians would not allow for inserting "Spirit Baptism" in various Pauline texts where Baptism is talked about. I don't think reading the "one Baptism" mentioned in Ephesians 4:5 as having two distinct aspects is a valid reading of the text.

      (3) A possible danger with labeling baptism as an "ordinance" is that it can convey the idea that Christians are doing an empty ritual simply out of obedience. This would make Jesus giving arbitrary commands, essentially "do this because I say so," not because there is anything to it. Yet the Bible would not speak so strongly about (water) Baptism if there wasn't something about it.

    3. Response:
      1). Perhaps another way of putting what I wrote previously will aid in our discussion: namely what are the grounds of Biblical salvation and the means of its reception? I’d like to hear what you have to say on those two questions. From where I’m at, the Grounds of salvation is Christ’s accomplishment of righteousness in His perfect life and the payment thereof to God the Father in His substitutionary death. From this work follows His resurrection, ascension and current Mediation as the Christian’s Prophet, Priest & King. The means of receiving all that He did is through faith and repentance as made possible by the Holy Spirit. In the Bible & every Reformed and most Baptist creeds, 3 evangelical graces accompany saving faith: Regeneration (raises the sinner from spiritual death to spiritual life); Justification (in which the Father acquits the sinner by faith alone) and Adoption (wherein the Spirit enables the sinner to cry out “Abba Father”). From the point of salvation issues forth the progressive work of sanctification. If anything, the soteriology I outlined is thoroughly Trinitarian and highly relational – ascribing the beginning, middle and end of salvation to the Trinity.
      2). In my survey of the 100 or so passages that speak on Baptism in the New Testament, there is no doubt that most refer to water baptism. I would like to hear your thoughts on the comment you made: “With very few exceptions, "Baptism" in Scripture refers exclusively to water baptism”. What are those few exceptions in your mind? For me, the places where the term “baptism” is mentioned that is not necessarily referring to water baptism is in places like 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and Titus 3:5, wherein we see reference to a “washing of regeneration” and “parting of the Holy Spirit”. In many of the older Baptist and Reformed Confessions of faith, texts such as these are placed under headings that speak about “regeneration” and the grace given by God in salvation that leads to faith and repentance. I may be wrong on this, but I believe the effort to distinguish between “spirit-baptism at salvation” as connecting to subsequent water baptism was a response to the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements of the 20 century. Baptist and some Protestant groups had to make explicit what they had been teaching implicitly for centuries – namely that the Bible teaches water baptism as having a causal connection to the Spirit’s prior work of uniting the believer to Jesus Christ in Spirit baptism. I would classify the 100 or so passages under three headings: those which speak exclusively of water baptism, which are the majority; those which refer to the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, which are far fewer and those that use the latter to provide meaning to water baptism. My reading of Ephesians 4:5 attempts to be faithful to the idea of “One Baptism” as I consider the other 100 or so texts which expand in much further detail on the subject.
      3). In my experience, flippancy over baptism arises not from the ordinance viewpoint. Spiritual anemia has crept into many evangelical churches, whereby many don’t even view Christ’s instructions on Baptism as even binding for believers. I know of no instance in Acts where we see unbaptized Christians. The flippancy arises either from not having truly experienced saving faith or lack of understanding on how baptism is essential to Christian obedience. As Jesus Himself taught, those who love Him will obey what He says. I’m not certain I can grasp anything that Christ commands as being “arbitrary”. All of God’s commands require His grace to carry them out. Though I would never advocate baptismal regeneration, I do think baptism is a spiritually significant step, enabling the new convert to walk under an open heaven of increased illumination of who they are in Christ. There is undoubtedly a spiritual dimension attached to the symbolism which water baptism portrays.

    4. Hello again,

      (1) You asked me: "what are the grounds of Biblical salvation and the means of its reception?"

      In Catholicism, the sole formal cause of Justification is the Righteousness of God the Father. A 'formal cause' is that which makes something to be what it is, so in this case one can only be righteous if they have the Righteousness of God the Father. This righteousness is not a creaturely righteousness, it cannot be earned in any sense of man's doing, including Adam in the garden. Rather, it is a sharing in God's supernatural life, which can only come from a unilateral offer by God the Father to share it with creatures. The Cross was the basis by which God the Father would share His supernatural life with creatures after they sinned, but neither the Cross nor Christ's life can be said to have 'generated' or 'created' the Righteousness of God the Father. What Protestants are effectively saying is that the Righteousness of God the Father was *created* upon Christ fulfilling certain objectives, but that means the Righteousness that saves us is a created/creaturely righteousness.

      You said: "If anything, the soteriology I outlined is thoroughly Trinitarian "

      I don't deny that the Reformed understanding of Salvation is thoroughly Trinitarian. What I'm saying is that the Trinity has a different role in each of our views. In the Protestant view, the Trinity is fully and monergistically at work to pass the achievement test for you and so earn and secure your "A+" in the gradebook. In the Catholic view, the Trinity is fully at work in a totally different sense, namely indwelling in the person's soul and thus forming a Trinitarian Personal relationship with him, making the Persons of the Trinity be in an intimate relationship with the Christian person.

      (2) You asked me what passages I considered the term "Baptism" to be referring to something other than water-baptism. One specific example I had in mind was Mark 10:38-39, when Jesus said He had a baptism to undergo, which was clearly speaking of His Passion.

      You said that 1 Corinthians 12:12f and Titus 3:5 were examples that were "not necessarily referring to water baptism". To say that they are "not necessarily" speaking of this suggests these texts do not clearly teach a "Spirit baptism" as opposed to water-baptism, and thus I think this demonstrates that there is no good Biblical evidence to believe in Spirit Baptism. Luther, Lutherans, and Calvin and Presbyterians (via the Westminster Confession) all see Titus 3:5 as referring to water baptism. And Titus 3:5 is universally understood by the Church Fathers to be speaking of water baptism as well. And given the term "baptism" doesn't actually appear in Titus 3:5 means that it cannot be a text using "baptism" in a figurative sense. As far as 1 Cor 12:12f is concerned, the context is speaking of conversion, specifically of all races and social classes. This is the very language we see in places like Galatians 3:27f, which is clearly in reference to water baptism.

      I have looked into this subject and can honestly say I see no good evidence to suggest the term "baptism" is ever used in the sense of a "Spirit Baptism". I believe this came about as a way of 'de-sacramentalizing' Baptism because of the 'danger' of it being seen as a 'work'.

      (3) If baptism truly does something spiritual for the person, then how can one draw the line between that and baptismal regeneration? It's a hard (if not arbitrary) line to draw. And if faith alone is to be taken in such a radical way as to push aside even baptism, then baptism must be 'symbolic' as far as getting save is concerned. This same sort of logic was used by the Mormons as the Lord's Supper when they began officially using water instead of wine, which isn't far removed from Baptists who use grape juice instead of wine.

    5. Hello Again Nick:
      I appreciate the time you are taking to engage in our discussions.
      1). In considering the four traditional types of “causes” used often in theology, let me see if I’m understanding where our positions may agree and disagree (please correct me if I misstate something)
      -Formal Cause of Salvation – God the Father desiring to extend salvation to creatures who otherwise could not save themselves. Salvation was a “formal idea”, in the heart and mind of the Triune God, wherein the Father planned it, the Son agreed to Purchase and the Spirit agreed to apply. I certainly would say that the formal cause of salvation is God, not man.
      -The Material Cause – God the Son’s agreement to come to earth to become a man aimed chiefly for him dying on the cross. Like the stone in Aristotle’s old illustration of his discussion of differing causes, the “material reality” of the crucifixion was necessary to lay salvation’s groundwork. I believe we are in general agreement on this point as well.
      -The Instrumental Cause – Roman Catholics would say that faith in conjunction with baptism is the instrumental cause, the means by which salvation is enacted. Baptist/Protestants would emphasize Faith alone being the instrumental cause. This is where I see our differences.
      -The Final Cause – This cause is admittedly different among Protestants and I would like to hear your take on the Catholic position as to what is the ultimate purpose of salvation. Some Protestants say the final cause is man, since he was the intended object of salvation. Others suggest God’s own glory, since salvation’s chief end was the Father, through the work of the Holy Spirit gathering a redeemed humanity as a gift to His Son. I tend to agree with the latter position, with the additional caveat that Christian Salvation is an ever increasing participation in Inner-Trinitarian Life. From what I understand of Roman Catholicism, the end goal of salvation is the beatific vision of God. Again I would like to hear your comments on that thought.

      2). The “De-sacramentalizing” of Baptism in my estimation was in some ways good but ultimately more harmful. Your point on how those advocating “faith-alone” can push away even baptism is an accurate observation of an unfortunate outcome in many evangelical churches. I think we differ as to why that's the case. I would say that trend is due to the lack of understanding of Justification by Faith Alone as articulated in the Reformation. Sadly some evangelicals are becoming more and more Pelagian, something of which I know even Roman Catholicism still deems heretical. Most forget that the Reformers taught that we are “justified by faith alone”, however they add “and the faith following is one that is never alone”. Also too, the emphasis on “spirit baptism” is an attempt to be more theologically precise in response to the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement.
      3). I’m curious about what your take is on movements such as “Evangelical’s and Catholics Together”? I was reading the ECT document from 1994 and the “Gift of Salvation” document from 1997. Since our discussion, I’ve tried to be more up to speed on the issues we’re discussing.

  5. Hello,

    (1) What you've described as the Formal Cause (God desiring to save) is more along the lines of what Trent calls the Final Cause (God glorifying Himself and extending salvation), and what you called the Material Cause is more aligned with what Trent calls the Meritorious Cause. I would say your take on the Instrumental Cause is accurate.

    The Formal Cause is still the fundamental point of contention and divergence here. As noted in the last post, the single Formal Cause is the Righteousness of God, which is essentially a participation in His Divinity. It is as impossible to be considered Righteous without it as it is impossible to be considered alive without a soul. In Protestantism, there isn't a Formal Cause because it's not about a real quality in the individual, but rather a subjective change in disposition by God (God graciously regards you as righteous even though you are not).

    (2) I am glad you see some harm in de-sacramentalization, but I'm not sure how you can simultaneously say that and hold to the Baptist understanding of the sacrament (i.e. purely symbolic, only signifying realities that have already taken place). In terms of properly understanding the historic doctrine of Sola Fide, Lutherans, Presbyterian, and Baptists do, yet they hold to different ideas of what Baptism does. I would not agree it is because more Evangelicals are becoming Pelagian, since the Reformer's understanding of man and salvation was ultimately Pelagian. This Post shows why.

    (3) The Evangelicals and Catholics Together Document was good in so far as it had Christians talking in a respectful manner and also admitting differences so as not to sweep things under the rug. That said, it did paint with too broad of a brush at times, and ultimately really only amounted to a common ground on moral issues. But even there was a problem, for on issues of morality the Protestant side still allows things like divorce, contraception, abortion in “limited circumstances,” as well as being in favor of free market economics. All those things are morally erroneous from the Catholic point of view.

  6. Dear Nick:
    I explored you blogsite a little bit and read the particular post to which you pointed me.
    1).I'm not aware of hardly any Protestant or Baptist confession, creed or group who would had denied the distinction between grace and nature. I'd like to hear what your thoughts are on those, but I for one don't agree with the Pelagian heresy in either its pre-fall or post-fall view of man. I would allign myself with Augustine in his views of depravity and the need of grace in both the pre-fall and post-fall states. In most the Baptist Creeds that I'm aware of, none deny the distinction which you claim.

    2). To me, Jesus being perfect and having to die is not a contradiction, since as you pointed out, the necessity of His death in His humanity meant him willingly going to die. If anything, his having a body not subject to decay was the whole point of His resurrection. His resurrection demonstrated what was already declared by Christ Himself and repeated time and again the new Testament, that He was sinless in his humanity.

    3). I always wondered how the Roman Catholic Position argued for Mary being immaculately conceived. Your description of her sinlessness being the basis for not transmitting the sinful nature to Jesus was a new one for me. Two issues. First, I see scripture teaching the sinful nature being passed through the father's bloodline, not the mother's. Hence Christ's virgin birth, not having a human father, is the reason for his humanity not having sin. (1 Peter 1:17-18) Mary was a godly woman, definitely to be respected and remembered, however not sinless. Second, if Mary was immaculately conceived, how to you avoid not then saying her mother was immaculately conceived without resorting to an infinite string of causes.

    4. I've never heard of Martin Luther being regarded as Pelagian nor Manichean. In my reading of His "Bondage of the Will" and the Lutheran Formula of Concord, I;ve never picked up on him having Pre-fall Adam not operating apart from God's grace. In Reformed theology, the Covenant offered to Adam nad Eve Pre-fall is referred to as the Covenant of works. Even though its blessings were conditioned upontheir obedience, its offering by God to them was not without grace. They had ever means of grace available to fulfill the Covenant of grace, and yet, because "they were able to sin, able not to sin", they freely chose to sin, not availing themselves of the grace available. From what I grasp in scripture, every command of God always has at least one provision of grace to fulfill it.

  7. Dear Nick:
    1. I need to correct one phrase in the last three sentences of my last response. I also apologize for some of the typos. Busy day. Anyhow: "In Reformed theology, the Covenant offered to Adam nad Eve Pre-fall is referred to as the Covenant of works. Even though its blessings were conditioned upontheir obedience, its offering by God to them was not without grace. They had ever means of grace available to fulfill the Covenant of works, and yet, because "they were able to sin, able not to sin", they freely chose to sin, not availing themselves of the grace available. From what I grasp in scripture, every command of God always has at least one provision of grace to fulfill it."

    I am finding great value in our discussions thus far. For me, I'm getting the opportunity to think more closely about the Gospel, Justification, the scriptures and Christ, which is always wonderful and necessary. I hope you are as well.