"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Justification and Monocausalism



The cartoon above by John Dearstyne can be found in Michael Horton's Putting Amazing Back Into Grace (1991), and it represents the [popular] Reformed conception of justification. According to this conception of justification, God, on account of Christ, treats us as though we are righteous, even though in actuality we remain unrighteous. The "good news" according to this conception, is that because of Christ's work on the cross, we are going to heaven, in spite of our remaining unrighteous, if we trust in Christ's work to get us to heaven. (I discussed the problem with this position in greater detail here.)

The common question that arises is this: If Christ's work was sufficient, then what room is left for us to contribute anything to our final justification? The dilemma looks like this: Either part of our final justification is from ourselves, in which case Christ's work was not sufficient for our final justification, or Christ's work was sufficient for our final justification, in which case there is no room or space left for us to contribute to our final justification. Or again: Either all our righteousness is Christ's, in which case we contributed nothing, or our righteousness is some fraction of Christ's righteousness and our own righteousness (e.g. 50/50, or 70/30, etc.).

I want to point out here that this is a false dilemma, because it implicitly assumes the truth of monocausalism. (See my previous post titled "Monocausalism, Salvation and Reconciliation".) How so? Implicit within the dilemma is the notion that if our doing a good work is a righteous act, then the righteousness of that righteous act is not merely "our own" but also "our own and not Christ's". (Notice the monocaualism.) Or, putting it the other way around, since, given monocausalism, a righteous act done by us would be done "only by us and not also by Christ", then since all our righteousness comes from and through Christ, it follows that we cannot do a righteous act. Hence, one of the errors of Martin Luther condemned in the Papal Bull "Exsurge Domine" (June 15, 1520) is this: "In every good work the just man sins." John Calvin similarly claimed that "all human works, if judged according to their own worth, are nothing but filth [iniquinamenta] and defilement [sordes]." (Institutes 3.12.4)

Monocausalism is the philosophical assumption in play behind the treatment of our justification [initial and final] as a mere imputation, and not an infusion. It makes righteousness out to be a quantifiable entity, like a pie composed of, say, eight pieces. If n pieces of the pie were contributed by me, then God could only contribute (8-n) pieces. The more I contribute, the more it detracts from God's contribution, and hence the more I contribute, the more it detracts from God's glory and from my dependence on God for my salvation. That account is based on the mistaken notion that righteousness and glory are quantifiable entities, comparable to something like a pie, and that God's contribution and my contribution are made at the same ontological level. That is why from the point of view of the monocausalist there is no causal room for mutual contribution without competition [e.g. if the whole is 8, and my contribution is n, then God's contribution can be no more than (8-n)].

But righteousness and glory and love are not like that. They are, ultimately, divine attributes; they do not compete for space in God. God is not part love, part righteousness, part glory, etc. Similarly, when God gives love, He does not lose any love. When God gives glory, He does not lose glory. When God gives righteousness, He does not lose righteousness. Similarly, when we love, we do so because He first loved us. Our love is genuine, even though it has its ultimate source in God. To think of love as either only from us, or only from God, is to fail to understand the relation between the Creator and the creature, between first and second causes. It fails to conceive of or imagine the possibility of concurrence.

Everything we have, save sin, is from God. And yet God has given us real powers, real freedom and choice, so that our actions are truly our own. We are actual agents, not robots. For that reason, even though all our righteousness is from God through Christ, nevertheless that righteousness is also (by grace) truly ours, on the inside, by infusion. Our hearts are transformed; we are truly and actually made righteous. That's the good news! We (as real agents, not robots or zombies) actually love God and are made truly righteous, by the grace of God, through faith in Christ, and this grace, faith, righteousness and love are all His gifts to us. They are all 100% divine gift, and yet they are truly and actually ours.

Consider this paragraph from the sixth session of the Council of Trent:

Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own from ourselves, 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. (chapter 16)

Notice here that the justice (i.e. righteousness) of Christ is also actually and truly ours. It is truly Christ's, and truly ours, without contradiction and without confusion or admixture. It is not part Christ's and part ours. It is 100% Christ's, and 100% ours, just as Jesus Himself is 100% God and 100% human, without contradiction or confusion or admixture.

The "mere imputation" view depicted in the cartoon above does not truly *unite* Christ's righteousness to us. It treats Christ's righteousness as remaining extrinsic to us. (That's why the guy in the cartoon is hiding; he is using Christ as his fig leaf, rather than having, as St. Paul said, "Christ in you". Col 1:27). That is because given monocausalism, the only two alternatives for us to be righteous are: (1) for Christ Himself (and Christ alone) to act in us, taking over our will and making our choices for us and in that way turning us into puppets or "possessed" beings, having no genuine causal agency of our own, or (2) we act apart from Christ, in which case if our deeds were righteous then some sort of Pelagianism would be true. To avoid both of those possibilities, monocausalism must settle for "mere imputation", an extrinsic union wherein on account of Christ's righteousness, God the Father treats us as if we were righteous even though we are actually unrighteous, and the problem of our actual unrighteousness is not addressed until we die. (According to Reformed theology we do in theory grow in sanctification over the course of our life after we come to believe the gospel, but nevertheless, even up to and including the last moment of our life, we are still like the guy in the cartoon above: simul iustus et peccator (simultaneously justified and sinner); we are still unrighteous, and all our 'righteousness' is as worthless as filthy rags.

To understand the gospel as something by which we are made actually and truly righteous (and not merely declared to be righteous while remaining in fact unrighteous), we need to consider what exactly the fall did to man, and then in light of that, reflect on what it means to be saved. See my "Prolegomena to the gospel". But my purpose in this post is only to point out the philosophical assumption (of monocausalism) that is at work in the background of the more commonly known Reformed conception of justification, particularly in the claim that if we contribute to our final justification, then Christ's work was not sufficient, and *part* of our righteousness is then coming from [ourselves and not from Christ].

81 comments:

Tim A. Troutman said...

I'm lovin it. Keep em' coming.

It made me think that what God desires from us is love. If we can do no good work whatsoever then how much less can we do the highest (and most fundamental) good work : love God?

Monocausalism does not permit real love since love is an act of giving ones' self (not of yourself being given by someone else to himself).

Although we cannot love God without Him loving us first and without His grace, if it is not _US_ doing it, it is not love. We cannot fulfill this commandment unless we actually do it.

What pleasure does God take in beings that react to His "irresistible grace" as chemicals determinedly react to one another?

japhy said...

I've never been able to understand how the "imputed righteousness" of Jesus's righteousness to us, by merit of his sacrifice, is any different from the "imputed righteousness" it is reasonable to believe the O.T. sacrifices produced. For Hebrews 10:4 says "it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins", so that implies that Christ's blood TRULY takes away sins. Were the sacrifices which God ordained for Israel ONLY a type of that perfect one which was to follow and end them all, or is it reasonable to believe they had a salutary effect (imputing righteousness) by merit of their prefiguring the sacrifice of Christ?

"Infused righteousness" seems to be the result of Christ's sacrifice, to distinguish it (in efficacy) from the O.T. sacrifices.

But I could be entirely off-base here (and out of my league, for sure).

Thos said...

Bryan,

Thank you for taking the time to write this. For me, it is timely. I was just watching the movie "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" last night, and considering its (Lewis's) message on atonement. It occurred to me how confusing the atonement is to me, after all these years as a Christian, and all this reading.

I learned from a Reformed pastor that there is scholarly dispute about the atonement, and about the ransom-paid-to-the-devil theory presented in that movie (book, and I'm sorry I can't recall the name for that ransom theory). After that Reformed discussion, I read the Catholic Catechism, because I was confused over how we even differ on atonement. I thought "substitutionary atonement" was the same as "forensic justification", and that these were purely Reformed beliefs. I am still confused. Is the Catholic position that Christ is punished in our stead (a substitute), but that forensic justification is false?

I realize there's a strong chance responding to these broad questions would take an excessive amount of your time. I'd be more than happy with some highlights or reading assignments. Thanks in advance!

Peace in Christ,
Tom

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Jason Stellman said...

Bryan,

I will admit that I only got through the first paragraph, so forgive me if you go on to clarify.

You really misrepresent the Reformed position here. As you should know, we teach both justification and sanctification, the latter of which does in fact makes us holier and holier as our lives progress. Further, this is rooted in our mystical union with Jesus according to which he does not remain outside of us, but he transforms us from within.

So to say that "The 'good news' according to this conception, is that because of Christ's work on the cross, we are going to heaven, in spite of our remaining unrighteous" is misleading at best.

japhy said...

Jason, "our mystical union with Jesus according to which he does not remain outside of us, but he transforms us from within." Does that transformation from within us include or exclude righteousness?

Thos, I read about four or five different articles on the atonement a few months ago, to come to a better grasp of the Catholic teaching. The Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on "Atonement" (supplemented by a few Wiki entries on various theories of atonement: Ransom, Satisfaction (the Catholic view), Substitution, and Penal Substitution) helped considerably.

Principium unitatis said...

Jason,

Thanks for your comment. I do refer to your concern later in the post. The key point, I think, is this: According to Reformed theology, there is no degree of sanctification anyone must attain in order to go to heaven. According to Reformed theology, our being presently heaven-bound (i.e. if we were to die right now we would go to heaven) is not contingent upon our degree of sanctification, since we have already been initially justified. Our progress in sanctification is *evidence* of our initial justification, but sanctification is not a precondition for going to heaven. As you said to me earlier on your blog, initial justification is an experience in the present of final justification. And, as we both agree, in Reformed theology sanctification is not part of initial justification.

Further, this is rooted in our mystical union with Jesus according to which he does not remain outside of us, but he transforms us from within.

I agree that according to Reformed theology Christ is in us. But it seems to me that there is a serious problem here. Christ is said to be in us, but Christ's righteousness is only imputed to us (and is thus extrinsic). How can Christ be in us, and yet His righteousness not be *actually* ours, but only extrinsically ours (i.e. treated as if ours)? This position, in my opinion, separates Christ from His righteousness. We get to have Jesus inside us, but Jesus's righteousness stays outside of us (like the cartoon depicts), at least until we reach some degree (?) of sanctification much later in life, or maybe only finally in heaven.

"The 'good news' according to this conception, is that because of Christ's work on the cross, we are going to heaven, in spite of our remaining unrighteous" is misleading at best.

How righteous do we have to be to go to heaven? If you answer 100%, then you are talking about imputed righteousness, not sanctification. If Charles Manson has a death bed conversion, how sanctified is he at the moment of his death? The point is, in Reformed theology, you don't need sanctification to go to heaven; you need imputed righteousness.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

Thanks for your comments.

I thought "substitutionary atonement" was the same as "forensic justification", and that these were purely Reformed beliefs.

Along with Japhy's suggestions, I would read ST III Q.48, ST III Q.49, and ST III Q.50.

If it is still unclear after reading that, then ask me again. I'm thinking that we'd have a better conversation about the subject if we've read the position first, and have a more shared sense of the terms in use.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Jason Stellman said...

Japhy,

Does that transformation from within us include or exclude righteousness?

It includes it. I think it's Eph. 4 that says that the image of Christ is re-wrought in us in order to make us grow more and more in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.

Did you think we just ignore the inner life?

Jason Stellman said...

Bryan,

If Charles Manson has a death bed conversion, how sanctified is he at the moment of his death? The point is, in Reformed theology, you don't need sanctification to go to heaven; you need imputed righteousness.

In order for that objection to have any force, Catholicism must deny the possibility of death-bed conversions. But if you admit their possibility, then at worst we're both in this together.

Or is the answer to this purgatory?

Tim A. Troutman said...

Thos, too bad you're not in Charlotte. Our October Liturgy & Lager session is going to be on the Atonement.

I don't think it is proper to say that Jesus was punished for our sins, that would involve God the Father punishing an innocent Man. I still have lots of reading to do before the session though. Luckily someone else is leading it.

George Weis said...

Bryan,

I never actually milled over this perspective until now, and I never realized how I may have had this sort of dual issue that creates such a strange conundrum.

Thank you for this post! I will continue to reflect on it.

Oh, and I never looked at your parish before, but wow... so beautiful!

Blessings on you and your family.

-g-

Principium unitatis said...

Jason,

In order for that objection to have any force, Catholicism must deny the possibility of death-bed conversions. But if you admit their possibility, then at worst we're both in this together.

There is an important difference. According to Reformed theology (at least of the sort represented by the cartoon), when the sinner converts at his dying breath, he is justified [by imputation of Christ's righteousness], but he is not yet sanctified. But according to Catholic theology, when he turns to Christ in repentance at his last breath, he is justified [by infusion of Christ's righteousness]. So he is sanctified (though not perfectly) at that very moment.

Or is the answer to this purgatory?

In Catholic theology, purgatory is that state of final purification, in which sanctification is perfected, if it has not been perfected in this life, and if the person died in God's friendship. Reformed theology has something almost equivalent, but without treating it as a temporal stage; in Reformed theology it is called glorification. Or, at least, in Reformed theology the completion of sanctification for believers is part of what takes place in glorification.

The key point I'm trying to make here with my Charles Manson example is that being in a heaven-bound state (were one to die right now) for Reformed theology does not depend on sanctification, while in Catholic theology it does depend on having (actually and truly, as one's own, even if imperfectly) the righteousness of Christ by grace through faith.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

Richard Hooker aptly wrote:

"The righteousness wherewith we shall be clothed in the world to come is both perfect and inherent. That whereby here we are justified is perfect, but not inherent. That whereby we are sanctified is inherent, but not perfect."

Classic Reformed soteriology includes inherent righteousness. The formal cause of justification, as important a matter as it is, is a technical question. It does not follow that because the Reformed oppose the Tridentine doctrine on the unica causa formalis of justification that we deny that there is inherent righteousness.

If anyone doubts that Hooker is representative of the wider Reformed tradition on this point, he need only look at John Owen. Owen was more radical but he too taught the reality of inherent righteousness:

"This inherent righteousness, taking it for that which is habitual and actual, is the same with our sanctification; neither is there any difference between them, only they are diverse names of the same thing. For our sanctification is the inherent renovation of our natures exerting and acting itself in newness of life, or obedience unto God in Christ and works of righteousness."

The scholastic distinction of sanctification or inherent righteousness into habitual and actual bears a resemblance to Murray's later distinction of definitive and progressive sanctification.

Sanctification always accompanies justification, and there is never a moment when someone is justified but not also sanctified. That is to say, the principle of grace and new life is implanted in the soul simultaneously with justification, so that for one to be somehow "saved" without being sanctified makes no sense. Justification and sanctification are distinct benefits of our union with Christ, yet one never has the one without the other.

Besides the Reformers, Cardinal Gasparo Contarini explained quite well why we do ought not to look for our justification as resting formally on inherent righteousness:

Seeing we have affirmed that we attain a twofold righteousness by faith: a righteousness inherent in us, as charity, and that grace whereby we are made partakers of the divine nature; and the justice of Christ given and imputed unto us, as being graft into Christ, and having put on Christ: it remaineth that we inquire, upon which of these we must stay and rely, and by which we must think ourselves justified before God, that is, to be accepted as holy and just, having that justice which it beseemeth the sons of God to have. I truly think, that a man, very piously and christianly, may say, that we ought to stay, to stay I say, as upon a firm and stable thing able undoubtedly to sustain us, upon the justice of Christ given and imputed to us, and not upon the holiness and grace that is inherent in us. For this our righteousness is but imperfect, and such as cannot defend us, seeing in many things we offend all, &c.; but the justice of Christ which is given unto us, is true and perfect justice, which altogether pleaseth the eyes of God, and in which there is nothing that offendeth God. Upon this therefore, as most certain and stable, we must stay ourselves, and believe that we are justified by it, as the cause of our acceptation with God: this is that precious treasure of Christians, which whosoever findeth, selleth all that he hath to buy it.

If I may ask a question, do you agree with Bellarmine that the formal cause of justification is habitual (over against actual) righteousness?

God bless,

J.

Iohannes said...

P.S. Bryan, If you're by a major library, you might want to look up The Rise of Moralism by C. FitzSimons Allison, now retired episcopal bishop of South Carolina.

Eric Telfer said...

The critique regards the popular conception of justification that many or some rely on within some Protestant circles. The critique could be directed at the conception itself or at the tradition that adheres to it to the extent that it does or at both. We do know that within Protestant quarters the legal, forensic, external aspect of justification at times stands alone. Or, we might say that that aspect is many times the major focus for some. Of course there is so much variability within Protestantism and within this or that denomination that one can generally find representatives who hold to a wider view or a more multi-aspectual view which may include internal righteousness too. Importantly, against the popular view, the Bible and the Church seem to be saying that we are not just declared righteous, but made righteous. The matter is not just legal, but also familial while retaining a legal dimension.

Eric

Eric Telfer said...

But moving beyond what was just stated about external and internal views of justification, this notion of single causalism is really important to consider, having far reaching influence on many issues, I think. For many times we see a tendency towards either/or thinking by Protestants and both/and thinking by the Catholic Church, at least with respect to several issues. Certainly we do not want to slap Christ's work of redemption or Christ's grace in the face and yet we do not want to remove the significance of our own free response and our own cooperation with Christ either.

Eric

mel said...

Simply put, there's a difference between the moment of our justification and how we live that life out (sanctification, becoming more and more like the image of Christ on this earth). When the Father sees a redeemed person, He sees His Son. I have no problem with the comic of hiding in the shadows of the cross. What else is there? Since there's nothing but those mentioned filthy rags, we can't get to God on our own. With the emptying of ourselves and putting faith (the faith that He has to give us in order to believe when the Spirit regenerates us) in the finished work of Christ on the cross, then we are declared righteous. But then again, there's also the Reformed argument of when any of us was actually redeemed....before the foundation of the world. Good discussions. My points aren't as philosophical, just saying what I see in Scripture, my authority in these matters.

Iohannes said...

Eric,

Traditional Reformed soteriology sees both imputed and inherent righteousness. Salvation is a larger thing than the formal cause of justification; and to say contra Trent that inherent righteousness is not the "single formal cause" of justification is not at all to deny that infused righteousness is part of salvation.

This is a point where the claim breaks down that Protestants think in either/or terms and Roman Catholics in both/and terms. The Reformed affirm both imputed and infused righteousness. Many from the Roman camp in the early stage of the Reformation did too, e.g. Contarini at Regensburg, and Seripando and Pole at Trent. Yet Tridentine soteriology at face value rejects imputation, apparently leaving infusion by itself. Later theologians (e.g. Newman) sought to soften this impression. Still, given the facts, this is not a matter in which the disjunctive-conjunctive topos of modern apologetics really works.

God bless,

John

Eric Telfer said...

Mel,

Right. There is a difference betweeen the moment of our justification and how we live that life out, i.e., whether we live according to it, consistent with it, grow in it, turn away from it, cooperate with it, etc.

The term 'sanctification' is used in different senses by different people and groups. There are senses in which justification and sanctification should not be separated, and yet it is true that we are called to cooperate with Christ and become more perfect as the Father is perfect, grow in holiness, walk in love, walk in the Spirit, avoid sin, etc.

Certainly without the cross we would not have the grace of Christ available and so not have redemption. You are absolutely right about that.

And yet the comic, which certainly has truths in it, depicts an external, legalistic, forensic imputation of righteousness, on my view of it, whereas the Bible, on a very reasonable interpretation, tells us that we are not just declared righteous, but made righteous as well. The matter is not just external, but internal as well. It is not just legal, but familial. We do not remain criminals who have been pardoned, but become sons in the family of God, sons of in the New Covenant.

Without grace and faith, we cannot be pleasing to God. But with it and in it and through it, we can work as adopted sons of God. Our good works done in that context are pleasing to the Father, and so not merely filthy rags, as works done outside grace (and faith), having no pleasing value before God.

There are several things to consider regarding justification and righteousness, to start with:

(1) declared vs. made righteous vs. both
(2) legal vs familial vs. both
(3) external vs. internal vs. both

Related to these and having to do with our cooperation in any of this, or anything that might follow from it that might impact or be relevant to remaining in the state of grace or obtaining glorification, we have to deal with the causality of salvation as well, with some thinking of the matter in in terms of a single cause, either God *or* man, and others thinking in terms of a bi-causality, i.e. God *and* man, at least in some relevant, non-trivial sense.

Side-note: When you say that Scripture is your authority in these matters, I wonder if it is your only authority and whether you rely on any other authority when trying to decide what Scripture means, i.e., an interpretational authority. I do not expect a response, but it is something I try to consider, as you probably do as well.

Grace to you and yours,

Eric

Principium unitatis said...

John,

Many Protestants treat [imputation-and-not-infusion] as the heart of the gospel. This, they claim, is what justified breaking with the Catholic Church. John Gerstner, for example, once said, [paraphrasing], "If we're wrong on sola fide, I'd be on my knees outside the Vatican in Rome tomorrow morning doing penance." Why did he say that? Because in his mind nothing else justified the Protestant-Catholic schism. What justified the schism, in his mind, was that the gospel was at stake. And many Protestants agree with him about that point.

If a person accepts infusion (even if he quibbles over the formal cause of justification), it is much harder to justify the Protestant-Catholic schism.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Eric Telfer said...

John,

>Traditional Reformed soteriology >sees both imputed and inherent >righteousness.

Great. But it is true that many popular accounts have focused very much on the legal, forensic and external aspects, at times, at least seemingly to the exclusion of the internal, familial aspects. In as much as a popular account wants to focus on those aspects, and ignore or marginalize or excude the other, we can, I think, agree that a critique is in order. Whether it applies to Traditional Reformed theology is another matter, one which I will not venture into, except to say that, if true, this may be one less point of disagreement between Traditional Reformed Theology and the Catholic Church.

>This is a point where the claim >breaks down that Protestants >think in either/or terms and >Roman Catholics in both/and >terms.

I spoke of a tendency with respect to several issues and so my claim was not quite as strong as you might have taken it. Any of us can get caught into either/or thinking, only to realize later that we did not have to think about a matter in either/or terms, which is not to say that we are not sometimes right in doing so. We ought to just realize that we are doing so and why and whether we really ought to, appreciating the options at hand. That is one of the main points there.

>The Reformed affirm both >imputed >and infused >righteousness.

Great. But this is not always carried over at the popular level. Hopefully, the more 'Traditional' amongst the Reformed can critique the popular view as well, then.

I would also speak here of the difficulty of generalizing when we speak of 'Protestants' and even of the 'Reformed Tradition'. There is so much diversity (and even, at times, division) in these different circles that it is sometimes, I think, easier to speak in terms of a particular position, as opposed to trying to tie the position to a particular individual or a particular group. Doing the latter many times will result in a pointing out of exceptions or disputes over how to interpret the body in question on this or that statement or the person on this or that text.

The fact of the matter is that if we lean just a bit to the left or to the right in emphasis or in language, we can be interpreted quite differently by different people. Further, at different times in our lives we may lean this or that way, but then later round it out a bit. Or, we may not lean a certain way at all, but appear to because we were emphasizing an aspect of an issue, but, in doing so, opened ourselves up to an interpretation that may not have been entirely what we had in mind. And yet with that said, some seem to speak so strongly against x or y that we may, I think, at least criticize them to the extent that they did. There are popular accounts of Reformed theology and Protestant theology in general (applied by some, not myself here) that do seem to be excluding or nearly excluding the internal aspect of justification and if we agree that such an aspect exists, perhaps we can agree to provide the corrective for it.

In love and peace,

Eric

Principium unitatis said...

Hello Mel,

Thanks for your comments. I was struck by your question: "What else is there?" If you read the links in my post, you'll find a position other than the one in the cartoon. The position depicted in the cartoon is something quite unknown to the Church for 1500 years; none of the Church fathers or councils taught such a view.

But, if you think that the position in the cartoon is correct, then what do you think is the point of our lives once we come to faith?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Bryan,

Perhaps you can help me with what I see as a real cognitive dissonance on the part of most Protestants.

On the one hand, I constantly hear how wonderful "sola fide" is because once Christ is accepted, salvation is essentially - in its essence - completed. There is no fearful treadmill that the justified can fall off. The justified brings nothing to their salvation and so cannot ever be accused of that awful "works righteousness" and "boasting" that so captivates the Protestant (most Protestants? All but a few? who knows?) conscience.

But then I read the Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. XI,

V. God does continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified;[14] and although they can never fall from the state of justification,[15] yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.[16]

The Lutheran Book of Concord reads:

[32] Thus, also, Holy Scripture testifies that God, who has called us, is so faithful that, when He has begun the good work in us, He also will preserve it to the end and perfect it, if we ourselves do not turn from Him, but firmly retain to the end the work begun, for which He has promised His grace, 1 Cor. 1, 9; Phil. 1, 6 [1 Pet. 5, 10]; 2 Pet. 3, 9; Heb. 3, 2.

When I read these passages, I don't see the "monocausalism" that I keep hearing about. In fact, I read - more definitely in the Lutheran formulation - that human will can refuse to cooperate and thereby undo "justification," albeit the WCF passage gestures at human cooperation limiting ultimate entry into the Beatific Vision, which raises all kinds of interesting issues.

This makes sense in light of the fact that we don't experience God monocausally - we really do respond to him - and, further, the Bible repeatedly reports how human action plays some role in salvation.

On the other hand, until I started digging into the sources, I would never have imagined these kinds of passages as exiting based on what I've heard from apologists on all sides.

So, perhaps, you can tell me if there actually is a kind of cognitive dissonance here between the monocausalism of the faith alone slogan and a deeper and more complicated theology of human cooperation in salvation.

Principium unitatis said...

Peter,

If I haven't said it before, welcome to my blog. Thanks for your comments.

The Formula of Concord is not the same as Luther's own position. Luther was more like Calvin. But Melancthon was more Catholic than was Luther. Lutheranism generally does not hold to the irresistability of grace in the way that Calvinism does.

The WCF quotation is quite compatible with monocausalism. God disciplines the justified sinner. This discipline brings the justified sinner *not* to an altar call with a renewed pledge to holy living, but to reaffirm his faith in Christ, and his belief in the gospel that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Eric,

Thanks for your answer. My concern above was primarily to guard against the common perception of misplaced either/or thinking as endemic to Protestantism. I recognize that you and Bryan are both reacting against a caricature of the classic Reformed doctrine, a caricature that some Reformed folks may unwittingly accept. At the same time I would disagree with the suggestion that the Reformed tradition is indefinite on the topics under consideration. Differences between popular conceptions and formal teaching are not unique to the Reformed. Whatever flux there may be at the popular level, among the leading representatives of the tradition there is little divergence on the points at issue. As noted before, Hooker and Owen stand very much at opposite ends of the tradition and yet present essentially the same teaching on justification. Other evidence from various authors and confessions of faith would not be difficult to produce. In fact, contrary to what has been said thus far, I am doubtful about whether Horton really holds the views that have been ascribed to him. It seems rather unlikely to me that he would hold one can ever be justified without being also sanctified (temporally if not logically speaking). There are some differences between the views of, say, Michael Horton at WSC and Richard Gaffin at WTS, but this isn't one of them. Anyhow, I would recommend looking further into why it is that the Reformed, though affirming the reality of inherent righteousness, do not make it the formal cause of justification. Contarini's explanation quoted earlier is little different from what Calvin would say. The good cardinal's words go a long way to demonstrating what the cartoon (however crudely it may appear) is getting at.

Grace and peace,

John

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

Thanks for your answer. I largely agree with the thrust of your second paragraph just as I share your desire for the unity of the Church. It is true that the disagreement between the Reformers and Rome was not as absolute as is often thought. When this is recognized, the division of the Western Church in the sixteenth century becomes only more tragic.

There is much in life that is unpleasant and lamentable yet unavoidable. We must ask whether the Reformation was justified in spite of the tragedy. The Reformers plainly thought so. Unlike their descendants today, they were keenly aware of just what it was that kept them apart from Rome. As technical a matter as the formal cause of justification is, the Reformers and their opponents alike believed that a mistake on this point paved the way for all manner of other, less subtle errors. The Tridentine fathers sensed the importance of the formal cause and took pains to define it carefully. The language of infused inherent righteousness as the unica formalis causa yields a crisp statement of doctrine at odds not only with the Reformers but with the instincts of several notable Roman theologians. For better or for worse, Trent's definition effectively ended any hope of compromise and reconciliation, such as had been attempted at Regensburg.

My advice is again to make sure one understands why the Reformers acknowledged the reality of an infused righteousness but refused to treat it as the formal cause of justification. This is the central question to which other questions commonly associated with Reformation soteriology debates are more or less peripheral. I have given some quotations above, as well as a recommendation to have a look at Fitzsimons Allison's The Rise of Moralism. Related to this book (though not a substitute for it) is this old discussion thread. Dr. Witt's comments should be especially helpful. At least they have been to me.

Not to go too far off topic, but I am aware that recently there was some discussion of the (mostly Southern) Presbyterian practice of rebaptizing converts from Catholicism. This was a major deviation from the universal stance of the Reformed churches till that time, and it drew strenuous opposition from Charles Hodge. Hodge insisted that the Roman communion remained part of the visible Church and as such had a real ministry with real sacraments. He was, however, at one with the Reformers in his rejection of Roman errors. He wrote in the conclusion to one of his articles on the rebaptism question:

It is a great mistake to suppose popery is aided by admitting what truth it does include. What gives it its power, what constitutes its peculiarly dangerous character, is that it is not pure infidelity; it is not the entire rejection of the gospel, but truth surrounded with enticing and destructive error. Poison by itself is not so seductive, and therefore not so dangerous, as when mixed with food.

Hodge in his criticism of Rome, though more negative than perhaps we should be today, was more subtle and balanced than his opponents. In truth it was Hodge, not Thornwell, who upheld the tradition of the Reformers. The Thornwell view was naive and left American Protestants quite unprepared to deal with the very real challenges that Roman Catholicism poses. There is often a temptation when one is presented with two truths seemingly in tension to drop one or the other, or clumsily to muddle the two together. Real contradictions should of course be rejected, but error has often arisen through the desire for an easy solution to what is really only a seeming contradiction. The challenge facing Protestants has never been, Is Rome altogether right or altogether wrong? It is, How far is Rome right, how far is she in error, and can the error be tolerated while being faithful to Christ? Unfortunately for the unity of the Church, Rome has made the affirmation of some of her errors necessary to membership in her body, and so has left those who see what the Reformers saw no choice but to be out of communion with her. Would that it might someday be otherwise.

Grace and peace,

John

Iohannes said...

As an addendum, since Horton features in this thread, it would be good to consider what he has said about sanctification in his popular level book on the Apostles' Creed:

Unlike justification, sanctification is imperfect and incomplete in this life, according to degrees. Nevertheless, it is complete in one sense: It radically reorients the believer from self to God at the deepest level. Just as total depravity means not that we are as bad as we could be, but that sin is pervasive (leaving no faculty untouched), so regeneration means not that we are as good as we could be, but that the restoration that has taken place is just as pervasive as sin. (p. 222)

Sanctification is both definitive and progressive. Definitive sanctification, or the already complete aspect mentioned by Horton, is similar to the scholastic description of an infusion of grace and habitual righteousness, which was affirmed by both Rome and the Reformed, even though the two sides differed on how to relate it to justification.

Principium unitatis said...

John,

The Catholic doctrine that sanctification is part of [initial] justification, and Hooker's notion that there is no moment of justification without definitive (even if incomplete) sanctification, are only semantically distinct, in my opinion.

If you are right about what is the Protestant gospel (though who gets to say what is *the* Protestant gospel is no easy question), then either the schism was not about "saving the gospel", or if it was about saving the gospel, then it clearly wasn't justified.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

John,

You referred a couple times to "Rome's errors", but you didn't specify what you think they are, and how you know them to be errors.

Also, if I may ask, of which denomination are you presently a member? I'm trying to understand where you are coming from. Thanks.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Peter Sean Bradley said...

The Catholic doctrine that sanctification is part of [initial] justification, and Hooker's notion that there is no moment of justification without definitive (even if incomplete) sanctification, are only semantically distinct, in my opinion.

Ha!!

That's exactly why I wrote my initial question!

:-)

Every time I try to put my finger on what the essential difference is, it seems to slip away.

Carry on, gentlemen.

Eric Telfer said...

John,

Thanks for the note.

>My concern above was primarily to >guard against the common >perception of misplaced either/or >thinking as endemic to >Protestantism.

I think I understand your concern. I would say, however, that either/or thinking is common amongst Protestants on some of the key issues. Whether it is misplaced or not is another issue. Whether it is endemic is yet another. Whether it is a mistake is yet another. Whether it is so within the Reformed Tradition of Protestantism is yet another. Whether it is so in 'classical' circles or just popular circles within the Reformed Tradition is yet another.

But, more importantly than all of this, for me, here, and even more importantly than whether it is common, which I am claiming, is the fact that individual instances of such thinking do seem to exist with respect to various issues in various people who defend Protestantism, with some wielding the either/or sword without reservation.

(I have no doubt that there are exceptions within Protestantism for Protestantism admits of exceptions on just about everything. What can an individual not give up if he wants to remain a Protestant? Just about everything that Luther and Calvin thought, in fact, but not quite everything.)

But, again, I am mostly interested in the individual examples as I bump into them, and only secondarily concerned with how many Protestants they apply to, which groups exactly, to what degree exactly, etc. Some Protestants with whom I have talked to and read works by seem to commonly provide examples of such thinking, whether they are representing the 'classical' Reformed Tradition or not.

>I recognize that you and Bryan >are both reacting against a >caricature of the classic >Reformed doctrine, a caricature >that some Reformed folks may >unwittingly accept.

The cartoon has truth in it. It, for me, is a point of departure. Whether it is a caricature or not is one issue. Whether it can even be interpreted correctly to imply a purely legalistic, forensic, external view of justification is another. Whether it accurately represents or even means to represente imputed righteousness another. Whether it is common is yet another.

More important for me here is the fact that I have run into instances where such a view seems to be proposed as true, when I think it needs to at least be rounded off, balanced out, and made more complete in as much as it neglects (purposefully or not), de-emphasizes, or rejects (implicitly or explicitly) the internal, familial aspect of justification, i.e., justification as sonship.

If the legalistic, forensic model is a trap or a trap if such and such conditions are met, then we need to set up boundaries against it so that people do not fall into it, all the more so the more common it is, but even if it is not so common, but has indeed been realized by people we know. If every Protestant I know comes along later and says that they agree with me here and that I was wrong in interpreting them the way I did. Great! In the meantime, I am happy to try to put a barrier around that particular error with respect to its comprehension, regardless of its extension or representation, though, when we turn to issues of unity and justification of schism, we will have to see whether this or that individual or group truly does hold to such a position and whether it does in fact justify a lack of unity amongst Christians if in fact that is being used to justify the schism. So, it is not as though the extension is not important, but I am emphasizing the comprehension aspect, and the fact that I have seen instances of the mistake regardless of the extension beyond those instances. And, if someone wants to say that I am wrong on the instances being instances, I may still have to disagree, but will still want to emphasize the logical possibility of such a position, the seeming proximity of the position to certain things that are being said, the possibility that others will 'unwittingly' fall into that position by misunderstanding what others are saying, and so want to set a guard-rail next to the error I have in mind.

Peace,

Eric

Principium unitatis said...

John,

What would you say about this post? Does it, in your view, represent the Reformed view, or not?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Eric and Bryan,

Thanks for your answers. I will try to respond briefly now, and hopefully will have more time to comment this evening.

Eric,

Poor catechesis has led to many troubles in Protestant churches. This is not, however, a strictly Protestant phenomenon. Most Roman Catholics I have met have little knowledge of their Church's formal teaching on salvation. Someone pointed out the other day that both sides now have often become caricatures of themselves, so that the average Protestant comes perilously close to antinomianism, and the average Catholic perioulsy close to pelagianism. Unfortunately, when people on either side turn to popular apologetics, their prejudices and uninformed or semi-informed views often get reinforced. They usually don't know much more than they did before, but they don't realize this. They then readily go forth to advance their side's cause, still largely unaware of what the real issues are. This description is of course a generalization, and there may be exceptions to it. On the whole, though, I think it is best to stay clear of the popular movements, both Protestant and Roman Catholic.

Bryan,

I am a member of a Reformed Presbyterian ("Covenanter") congregation. Being presently away from home, I normally worship with an OPC congregation, or occasionally a PCA. At home I have of late sometimes worshiped with a traditional Anglican (REC-Common Cause) parish. Not that I am fleeing presbyterianism--the Anglican church is a shorter drive, and easier to get to with my family.

I have no desire to produce a catalog of Roman errors. Mistakes on the formal cause of justification lead easily to mistakes on other points. FitzSimons Allison's book shows what the Reformers understood in this connection, and why they refused to accept the Roman doctrine. Besides soteriological matters, I would as before mention papal primacy of jurisdiction and Newman's development thesis as problematic. But for now it is probably best to stick to one topic.

As for the blog post, I think it should be balanced with an explanation of union with Christ. Union with Christ is as it were the ground of imputation. Without a healthy awareness of the centrality to the Gospel of incorporation into (and life in) Christ, Protestants expose themselves to the criticism that their doctrine amounts to a legal fiction.

Principium unitatis said...

Thanks George,

If you're ever in St. Louis, look me up and we'll go visit it together. Better yet, come for the last three days of Holy Week, concluding with the Easter Vigil. It is an amazing experience.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Rene'e said...

Bryan,

I believe this relates to your post. It is James Akins on the Jusitication of Abraham.

Would you agree with him?

http://www.ewtn.com/library
/ANSWERS/PASTPRES.HTM

Principium unitatis said...

Renee,

Here's the link.

I think that is fair and accurate representation of the Catholic position.

Another article that I recommend (though not written by a Catholic) is S.M. Hutchens' article titled "Getting Justification Right".

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Rene'e said...

Bryan,

Thank you for answering my question and the article you recommeded.

I read the article.

It made me think of Bishop Sheen's words:

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen...

There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

While at the library this afternoon I found some material in Witsius that may interest you. He explains salvation using the federal and legal categories that frustrate a lot of people today. Yet if one goes beyond the forms of expression to the actual substance of his doctrine, it is pretty much the standard teaching of the earlier Reformed (and Anglican) tradition. I also checked in Turretin at the library. If you would like to see a scholastic presentation of classic Reformed soteriology, Turretin is a good place to look.

God bless,

John

Eric Telfer said...

Attention can certainly be turned to the so called 'classical' or 'early' position within Reformed circles as well.

It is common within Protestant circles to criticize one position that has representation within Protestant circles only to be told by yet another Protestant that that position is actually wrong or problematic and not the position that needs to be criticized, being referred then to a position that is either earlier, more classical, less well known, more novel, different in emphasis, different on this or that technical detail, thought of by this or that person as the true position, more conservative, more liberal, etc.

It is also common (and I am not saying that that has happened here in this discussion) to be told that one is attacking a straw man of Protestantism. The problem is that though straw man attacks do happen with respect to Protestantism, one can typically find a real Protestant man who advocates such a position, and who disagrees with other Protestants about what the real, true take should be.

Within Protestant circles and on Protestant principles, one eventually may have to deal with every single Protestant since each individual Protestant is free to form his own theology in a way that can differ quite a lot from what other Protestants form. And so one finds oneself, again, criticizing one Protestant's position (which generally has representation by many) and then turning to another Protestant's position, either because one bumps into another Protestant with a different position or because one is referred to the position of yet another Protestant. In principle, there could be as many Protestant positions as there are Protestants.

Not that John has implied it, but I would want to say here for the sake of clarity that calling attention away from the position that was criticized does not challenge the critique of the position that was critized, by itself, except perhaps in terms of relevance, though in this case there are enough representatives of the Reformed tradition who at least seem to be nearing the position being criticized that the criticism is important, at least to the extent that it calls those in the Reformed tradition [who read it] to re-consider what their position really is or should be.

I agree that catechesis can be a huge problem for all groups. In fact, it is. But I am not sure who the teacher should be within Protestant circles and exactly what is to be taught as true doctrine, when so many Protestants actually disagree with each other about a great deal.

Moreover, with respect to the justification for the original protest and division we do have to look at those men who broke away. That is very important. But there are people living today who justify remaining in schism on ideas that have to be looked at too for some Protestants today do not agree with Protestants of old and have their own ideas about all of this, though most are fairly similar.

I would also add that at times I have found there to almost be a two-mindedness on some of these issues such that a man really does not believe in, say, antinomianism or sola fide or external justification [only], in practice, but as soon as a discussion about the Catholic Church is mentioned he goes straight to the old standard terms and makes them mean something so that he can hold to them and justify the schism.

Eric

Principium unitatis said...

John,

In response to a criticism of the "mere imputation" position, it seems to me that maybe (at most) 5 percent of Reformed persons will say, "That's not our position; our position is that justification includes (or is at least never without) inherent righteousness through union with Christ." The rest will treat the criticism as a criticism of their own position.

So, while I understand that Reformed figures (such as Witsius and Turretin) held more nuanced positions, the popular (majority) Reformed position today seems to be more like that in the cartoon. And if you read Horton's Putting Amazing Back into Grace, that's the position you will find there, even if Horton has qualified his position in his more recent works.

So I'm addressing the view in the cartoon precisely because it is presently the popular Reformed view.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Eric,

Your comments on addressing the wide variety of Protestant critiques, rebuttals and defenses were thought-provoking, to say the least. Thank you for taking the time to spell them out.

I had not thought in those terms before, but they seem to support my belief that *authority* is what truly divides Protestants from Catholics (and the Orthodox), and not the likes of justification as is often stated. There is no singular Protestant view on justification -- we cover the gamut. What we all share is a negative view of claims of apostolic succession (I am considering those Anglicans who would claim an exception to be non-Protestant, so not an exception). And those committed to the tradition of Luther's (et al.) departure from Catholicism all share the positive view of exclusive biblical authority.

It seems to me that every ecumenical conversation can boil down to authority. Because if you (Catholics) are right on that front, then there is nothing to prove by the side-show of justification. And if you are wrong, then even if you *happen* to have justification right (which you would have to show through common debate), you are still in serious error.

It strikes me that it would be well for the body of Christ to dwell more on authority, on the relationship of the parts of the body to the head.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Principium unitatis said...

Tom and Eric,

Perhaps this gets us off the topic of this thread (though I could start a new post), but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this post if you get a chance. This goes to the authority question. Do you think that Steve's reply is the only type of reply available to Protestantism? What are the implications of Steve's type of reply, particularly with respect to unity?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Bryan,

I had a hard time discerning the essence of Steve's reply.

He said of you, "it begs the question for him to frame every inquiry in terms of interpretive or teaching authority." I think if we (Protestants) presuppose sola Scriptura, then any question on interpretive or teaching authority is answered by "sola Scriptura". And questions of faith and morals no longer depend upon [derivative] interpretive or teaching authorities (who all err) at all, but are answerable only by personal reflection on the Bible.

I hope I'm not too far off track yet in my take on Steve's statements. If we (Protestants) presuppose sola Scriptura (i.e., Bible as exclusive non-derivative authority) is true, and you (Catholics) presuppose magisterial authority is true (which it seems he believes you did with your questions), then there is no ground for unity.

But how do you challenge those presuppositions if your attempts are disregarded as laden with your own presuppositions? How could you have asked those questions on church authority without begging the question? In my own posts, I feel like my best critiques on sola Scriptura as essential authority have gotten very little traction. In anecdotal experiences, when I challenge the central presupposition of authority (which I've held all my life), I get a shoulder shrug in reply. This is truly baffling.

I believe he has also confused your quest for submission to 'lawful' authority with a quest for doctrinal certainties in life (again, because he doesn't believe that *authority* is completely seminal to the divide). This led to some superfluous analysis of why Catholicism won't fit your bill.

I don't think Steve's reply is the only available for Protestants, either. If his reply is that we presuppose sola Scriptura, Mathison (and older others) offers something different by articulating a rationale for the doctrine for sola Scriptura (i.e., reliable church for four centuries inscripturated all revelation, which became our sole non-derivative authority). If his reply is that not "every specific question related to the conflict with Rome should be framed in terms of authority" (a thought he never seemed to wrap up), then he needs to distinguish this from his other statement that in the "generic sense" the conflict is on authority. Would this be like a Civil War over state succession rights, with particular battles over some unrelated ideology (like export tariffs)? I'm not sure.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Eric Telfer said...

I posted a response to Steve's essay on his blog. The link that Bryan provided above can get a person there, I think.

To what degree the Protestant working within Protestantism is limited to this or that reply will depend on how the labels are used and what we mean by them. It is probably best, I would think, to say that there are people who hold to position x, and then say that we are going to call that 'Protestantism' or something else. Then we can say that they are limited to this or that response.

But I am not convinced that many who call themselves Protestants really are Protestants in any given sense that we might define the term. The variety goes that deep, at times, though many are limiting themselves in a certain way and we ought to be able to talk about the resultant, regarldess of what term we use to refer to it.

There is a common pattern, a common type of thinker, though, defined by a certain set of notions or perhaps limited by one or more notions or set of resources or resources used a certain way. But I am not sure that Protestants even know exactly what those are in detail, especially at any level of detail.

Generally, it has to do with limiting oneself to the authority of the Bible only, but that still leaves a lot of indeterminacy.
with some wanting to limit the movement or position in terms of sola scriptura, others sola scriptura and sola fide, others the 5 solas, others in terms of a negation of the Catholic Church, others in terms of this or that type of sola scriptura, etc. And, even when we say that a Protestant is a man who believes x and y no matter what, we find variations on x and y which are significant enough to change the implications of x and y, and so significant enough to alter the possible answers on the issue of authority, at least to some degree.

But I think we have to define what we mean by the term and not try to include too much.

The alternative is to leave the term 'Protestant' or 'Protestantism' out altogether and just specify what we mean in detail each time we might have used the term, though this is labor intensive, taking away the short-hand.

I would say that some, if not many, who call themselves Protestants do not subscribe to Sola Fide, for example, if some want to include this as part of the definition. Some have not even heard of it and are surprised when they do. Others hold to a very limited form of it. Others hold to the langauge, but not really to the essence of the doctrine. Others hold to the doctrine in expression, but not in practice. Similarly, there are different versions of sola scriptura, with reasonable, well intending Protestants many times not being able to agree on how Sola Scriptura should be spelled out or understand. Perhaps there is some general concept that applies to all sola scriptura variations. If so, that could be used as a non-variable, while allowing other things to be variable or sliding or a bit more indeterminate.

Another possibility is using the term in a specified way, but specifying it in different ways depending on the issues. So, when a person wants to talk about Sola Scriptura he might use the term 'Protestant' in one sense and when he wants to talk about Sola Fide he might use the term in a different sense, specifying the sense each time.

But I think the limitations of whatever position we have in mind that we might refer to with the label 'Protestant' really will impact the resources that position has and so the possible responses. In the end, the label is not as important as the position we have in mind.

In Christ,
Eric

Eric Telfer said...

Tom,

I placed a response to one of Steve's responses at the same blog, following my longer response to Steve. There is a mixing of categories going on. At one level we have to deal with the relation between the authority of the Church and the authority of Scripture. At the level of interpretive authority, though, we have to deal with the relation between the authority of the Church and the lay Christian. These are fundamental issues, if we grant interpretive authority to the Church or much authority to the Church at all, as I think the Bible would have it. The questions themselves did not beg any question. Arguments beg questions at times. Questions ask questions. If someone looks to the Bible for an answer that someone will have to interpret the Bible and when we consider that interpretation we will want to know if that interpreter has any authority and how that authority or lack of authority relates to others who are offering interpretations. If a man forms a theology and claims it is rooted in Scripture we will want to know if that man has any special authority and how to relate to him. This is precisely what we would have wanted to know had we been dealing with the apostles too.

In Christ,
Eric

mel said...

Okay, I'm trackin'. I went back and looked at the comic again. I need to study more and pray more and keep up with these discussions more. Sin is gone upon regeneration (by faith alone, IMHO) and so he shouldn't still be holding the sin sign. Got it.

Monocausalism is a new term to me, and evidently, not one I'm equipped to discuss without further research. And so I'll work on that. Thanks for the grace.

Couple of answers...
"What else is there?" -- Meaning, what else is there but the perfect atonement of the blood of Christ that redeems a person? Just that. Just the completed work of Christ for us.

"What is the point of our lives once we come to faith?" First, and you'll see the WCF support this in Q/A1, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To love others as He first loved us. To tell others the miraculous deeds He's done by setting us free from sin and (eternal) death. To proclaim the Day of the Lord as we anxiously and excitedly await His return. To be salt and light to our dying world. To encourage other Believers in their walk with Him and to give Him the glory, great things He has done! That's the point of our lives. Sounds fun!

I get it when it's said "that view wasn't around the first 1500 years of the Church." I must've read the comic wrong; sin is gone, and so I guess I don't agree. I just didn't know the theological/philosophical wording behind it. But I know that sanctification goes on on this earth until the glorification takes place in Heaven. Romans says it's a process that will be completed from start to finish.

And my authority? Written Scriptures. Interpreter? The Writer Himself. I'm still a creedal, confessional ARP, but they have to match -- the Word and its summaries -- not contradict each other.

Thanks for letting a lady have a voice here. Peace.

p.s. I've started another blog besides our family's where I'm doing "book reports" on what I'm reading, starting with the Fathers.

Iohannes said...

Eric and Bryan,

Pollsters routinely demonstrate that the answer one receives commonly depends on the question one asks. Since Protestants today seldom think in scholastic categories, when they hear terms like inherent righteousness or habitual justice, they usually have little clue what is being mentioned. Most, if they have heard the terms at all, have heard them solely in a polemical context, and a low-level one at that. Naturally (if naively) they react against the words. If the question is phrased differently, as in whether sanctification and justification are distinct but received together, this is rather more widely recognized than if one asks whether infused and imputed righteousness necessarily accompany one another. The question would become even clearer if one dropped the justification/sanctification terminology and simply asked whether God also transforms those whom he pardons and accepts in Christ. Only someone who has been too long in the rarefied atmosphere of theological quarrels would have trouble with this question.

If we will deal with popular opinions about contentious theological issues, it will not do to focus just on the misunderstandings of the Reformed camp or of Protestants in general. The average Roman Catholic knows just as little as the average Protestant about these topics. In fact, at least in the places I have lived, even Catholic priests and religious ed. instructors have often shown precious little understanding of the faith which they are charged with imparting to those under their care. Not everywhere is as healthy as the Archdiocese of St. Louis (for the vitality of which may God be praised). Earlier it was said, "What can an individual not give up if he wants to remain a Protestant?" Given the lax discipline of the modern Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant rejoinder is not hard to guess. For many Catholics, as for many Protestants, religion really is an external affair, devoid of appreciation for internal renewal.

It has been suggested that were Protestants to accept infusion, even without treating it as the formal cause of justification, the Protestant-Catholic separation would be much harder to justify. This cuts both ways. Trent drew the line with a sharp statement that not only defined infusion as the formal cause, but went further to specify it as the single formal cause. As Alister McGrath has noted, this in effect put an end to the attempts at compromise which before Trent had focused on soteriological formulas affirming both inherent and imputed righteousness. This was an unfortunate development indeed, not least because the leading Reformers did not fail to point out that in distinguishing justification from sanctification they were not cutting the one off from the other. Although I have cited them before on this blog, it is good to repeat Calvin's own words published directly in response to the sixth session of Trent:

It is not to be denied, however, that the two things, Justification and Sanctification, are constantly conjoined and cohere; but from this it is erroneously inferred that they are one and the same. For example: The light of the sun, though never unaccompanied with heat, is not to be considered heat. Where is the man so undiscerning as not to distinguish the one from the other? We acknowledge, then, that as soon as any one is justified, renewal also necessarily follows: and there is no dispute as to whether or not Christ sanctifies all whom he justifies. It were to rend the gospel, and divide Christ himself, to attempt to separate the righteousness which we obtain by faith from repentance.

Paul Helm has highlighted another excellent passage from Calvin on the connection between these two graces:

I believe I have already explained above, with sufficient care, how for men cursed under the law there remains, in faith, one sole means of recovering salvation. I believe I have also explained what faith itself is, and those benefits of God which it confers upon man, and the fruits it brings forth in him. Let us sum these up. Christ was given to us by God's generosity, to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace: namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ's blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by Christ's spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life.

(So much I suppose for the frequent charge of Dr. Hahn's disciples that in place of the family dimensions of salvation Calvinism offers a cold, legal framework.)

With regard to the comments about religious authority, and the alleged lack thereof in Protestantism, I agree that the fracturing of the Church poses real difficulties. I do not, however, believe that the Roman solution is correct or historically viable. Recently I have commented on ecclesiology at some length, both at the Conscious Faith blog and here at Principium Unitatis. To restate everything would be wearisome. Discussion seems always to end when we go to the historical record of the papacy's development. In any event, as one additional thought, I would suggest consideration of how the ideas of the English common law tradition (as opposed to that of civil law) compare to the Protestant outlook on the authority of religious tradition.

God bless,

John

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

While I dislike advertising my own writing, it seemed good to mention this post at Conscious Faith, which considers the religious policy advocated by James Madison for the young American Republic.

God bless,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

How do you think Christians should go about pursuing full visible unity?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

That is a good question, and it requires a better answer than I can give. But if I were to try, the first thing that comes to mind is the need for sincere prayer by the faithful imploring God for the restoration of unity and fellowship in love and truth. The BCP gives several excellent forms. We do not really take a purpose seriously if we do not earnestly desire God's aid in attaining it.

We must especially endeavor the mortification of our own pride. This will make mutual recognition of the brethren easier. Dr. Witt has some intriguing thoughts on this.

We should remember, too, that past experience is not all in one direction, from unity to disunity. For instance, my own denomination branched from the Scottish Church in protest against the religious settlement after the Glorious Revolution. It continues to exist in America as a separate body, but if my understanding is correct, it no longer exists separately in Scotland. In the 19th century it merged with the Free Church, which in the early 20th century was largely reincorporated into the Church of Scotland. Of course, given the liberalism of the present day CoS, this isn't an ideal example. Another example is the Church of South India.

Related to striving against pride is the abandonment of our unfounded pretensions. All are tempted to be overly inward looking and to pay too little heed to those outside our immediate circles. Protestants need to recognize that denominationalism is an extraordinary phenomenon and an aberration. It is not a thing indifferent, an equally valid alternative to organic unity. We need to remember what James Durham said, that the "making up of a breach is no less a duty than the preventing thereof." I would prefer not to dwell on what others need to do, but honesty requires too the frank admission that I do not see a way forward for Church unity that leaves Pastor Aeternus, for example, standing. Hypothetically speaking the rest of the Church might be able to recognize in the bishop of Rome a primacy of auctoritas, such as he had in the patristic church. The primacy of potestas, however, is a major hurdle to ecumenical progress. So too is Newman's development theory (and the Roman distinctives depending on it), but that it is enough to mention for now.

One of my friends has said with humor that what we really need is an emperor who can restore Christendom and sort everything out. That isn't likely to happen any time soon, but we should welcome all serious efforts toward holding the church together. I am optimistic about GAFCON, for example, and think it might provide a way forward for reuniting orthodox Protestants. The media were very negative in their coverage. But a few weeks ago I was blessed to meet the wife of a bishop who was in Jerusalem, and from her description it sounds very much like God was at work there in healing his church. Who knows what God might bring to pass?

These are only some rambling thoughts on the subject. One thing to be stressed is that we need to strive to see things as they are, even when they are not as we might like them to be. If this means admitting mistakes, then that must be done. But it also means that we cannot gloss over the quite real differences that have kept Christians apart. If we are dishonest with ourselves about what has happened in the past, we will not be laying a sound foundation for the future.

That was a little longer than I meant it to be; sorry for that.

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

Thanks for your reply. I agree with you completely about the importance of prayer, and humility.

It seems to me, as Tom said above, that thinking about full visible unity cannot be done without thinking about ecclesial authority in the following respect. Either there is some person or group of persons to whom we all should be subordinate, or not.

If there is no person or group of persons to whom we all should be subordinate, then there is no hope for full visible unity; each person simply does what is right in his own eyes, and we're stuck with the fragmentation of individualism. But if there is a person or group of persons to whom we all should be subordinate, which person or group of persons is it, and on what basis?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Eric Telfer said...

John,

Thanks for your comments.

I agree that there can be verbal disagreements and that people can appear to have one position but actually, if asked from a different angle or with different langauge, have another one (or another aspect to their position that they are not emphasizing for a variety of reasons).

I agree that there are sometimes gaps between teachers and lay persons, such that popular apologists and lay Christians may be misrepresenting or missing or not fully expressing a dimension of the classical or earlier Reformed Tradition, though some popular apologists are fairly well learned on some of this. I am not sure who the teachers should be in such circles, though. Nor am I sure how true doctrine is to be determined in such circles given the resources and principles that seem to be at hand.

The comment about how much one can give up and still remain a 'Protestant' was focused on doctrine, aimed at probing into what is really essential to 'Protestantism' at the doctrinal level, given the fact that fragmentation is such a problem.

You seem to disagree with the popular conception of justification offered by some in in the Reformed Tradition as well.

I do wonder what the problem is, exactly, with the notion that the single formal cause of justification is sanctifying grace.


In Christ,
Eric

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

I hope I'm not too far off track yet in my take on Steve's statements. If we (Protestants) presuppose sola Scriptura (i.e., Bible as exclusive non-derivative authority) is true, and you (Catholics) presuppose magisterial authority is true (which it seems he believes you did with your questions), then there is no ground for unity.

But how do you challenge those presuppositions if your attempts are disregarded as laden with your own presuppositions? How could you have asked those questions on church authority without begging the question?


That's exactly what I was thinking.

As I argued here back in February of 2007(!), I still don't see any middle position between a sacramental basis for authority, and an ecclesiology that is not in principle distinct from individualism.

Thanks for your thoughts.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Eric,

Thanks again for the reply.

The question of who the teachers should be in Protestantism appears to assume that Protestants are assembled not in churches but ecclesial communities. Since we all come at questions with our respective backgrounds and starting points, that is a fair assumption for a Roman Catholic to make. If, however, reformed churches exist as churches, then the question is less perplexing. The ministry, the shepherds whom God has set over his flock, is charged with teaching and leading the faithful. In the unsettled present condition of the Church this admittedly does not work as well as it would were the Church better united. But that does not mean that the ministry has simply ceased to exist. These are strange times, but this is not the only period when the ministry has been lamentably discordant in its teaching (e.g. think of the chaos of the Arian controversy). As for whether what I have described can be meaningfully called the classical reformed doctrine, and not merely something that certain individuals have advocated, I would suggest that one look at history. The thesis that santification and justification are distinct but joined together in salvation is the common teaching of the Anglican and Continental Reformers. If, as I suggested before, one thinks in terms of precedent rather than formal codification, the precedent for what has been said about justification and sanctification as being the classic position of the reformed churches is overwhelming. That there is no reformed pope doesn't obliterate the fact of this consensus. And it should be noted that if the Roman communion is not what it professes to be, but is, as non-papal Christians believe, one part among many in the Church, then the difference between her teaching authorities and those in other parts of the Church is a difference in degree, not in kind.

On why the Reformers opposed inherent righteousness as the formal cause of justification, I would recommend looking both at what Cardinal Contarini said (see above) and at FitzSimons Allison's writing and the related discussion. Then contrast the Protestant argument with this statement in ch. 16 of the Tridentine decree on justification:

For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches, 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, 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 into life everlasting."

To the Reformers (and not just the Lutherans) this kind of teaching was dangerously confounding the law and the gospel.

Grace and peace,

John

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

I appreciate your response. In answer I would refer back to something I have said here previously:

The visible Church is the visible presence of God's kingdom on earth. It is possible to view a kingdom in different ways. One way is to identify the men who inhabit the kingdom. In that regard there is legitimate plurality in the Church. All the many individuals are united visibly and sacramentally into one body through a common baptism. From this aspect, all the baptized who have not renounced the baptismal profession belong to the Church. They are all, at least in the judgment of charity, God's chosen people, the heirs of salvation. To be unbaptized is to be outside the body, to disobey the Gospel, and so, presumptively, to be an alien to the promises. Hence there is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside of the (visible) Church.

It is also possible to view a kingdom from an institutional or organizational aspect. A well ordered kingdom has a functioning government with officials formally designated to implement the king's rule. Christ established the ministry to execute his will in administering his kingdom on earth. He himself calls and appoints his stewards. Through them he diffuses the Gospel, summons men to repentance, pronounces forgiveness for the penitent, washes and places his name on them in baptism, nourishes them in the Supper, and protects them through discipline. He also perpetuates the ministry through the work of his stewards in ordaining successors.

These two aspects should be in harmony. The government of the kingdom should pervade the body of men inhabiting the kingdom. In our experience, however, sin remains to assail the kingdom and create friction in its administration.

A problem arises when tension causes the government of the kingdom to deteriorate. History shows how civil strife can foster various degrees of political disorder within kingdoms. In a large empire it is not uncommon for there to be periods in which the government at the top breaks down, with different groups claiming the right to govern the whole. Throughout these periods the government often continues to function at the local and regional levels, perhaps more successfully or more regularly in some districts than in others. Also, during these times of internal turmoil the frontiers of a kingdom are sometimes neglected, with the result that chaos is greatest on the borders, and it can be hard to tell precisely where the borders are.

A measure of disorder in a kingdom's government does not necessarily entail the dissolution of the kingdom. The crisis of the third century did not annihilate the Roman Empire. A kingdom in disrepair is still a kingdom. When there is disorder, it is often hard to determine with certainty which governing party is legitimate. Often it is a usurper who boasts loudest of his rights to the dominion. In any event, absent complete conquest by one party, the best solution for the disorder is frequently a congress that brings together all who have some claim to the administration. The government can then be settled, and order and harmony restored. The congress does not create a new kingdom, but reorders and stabilizes the existing kingdom.


One thing I would add is to observe the similarities between the American Revolution and the (magisterial) Reformation. Both were rather more conservative than is often supposed. The Founders never sought to break absolutely with the past and start over again from the beginning. They tried at first to work entirely within the system by seeking redress from king and parliament. The Declaration says what the Reformers would have claimed about their own situation: "In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury." It was as a last resort, when all other options seemed exhausted, that the Founders concluded it was necessary, for the preservation of the civil order and justice they were bound to uphold, to break with the king. Even then they worked within the system as far as they could: the break with the king was the action not merely of individuals but happened throught the existing colonial governments, which continued after independence as the new state governments, even though Britian certainly did not recognize them as such. And it is notable the newly independent American states did not abandon their heritage and traditions; past English law and custom largely continued to be recognized. So to a great extent it was with the Reformation, especially the magisterial Reformation that led to the modern Protestant Churches of England and Scotland. There was a measure of discontinuity, but it wasn't absolute; there was no decisive break with the pre-Reformation Western Church. That's not how Rome saw it, but then again, that wasn't initially the British government's perspective on the colonies, either. In connection with the Revolution it should be also be noted that America has never had a single organized, national Church. I think it is important to consider how far the division in Protestant churches is necessarily characteristic of Protestantism as such, and how far it is a symptom of our experience of being in a country where important founders like Madison treated a multiplicity of competing sects as something desirable. (BTW, not that I would by any means equate the Founders with the Muslims who conquered a large swath of Christian territory, but it it worth pointing out that the latter also saw a multiplicty of Christian sects as a good thing, since it weakened the Christian presence in lands conquered for Islam. When the Islamic rulers dealt with Christians, they treated them not as one group, but as several, thereby exploiting the divisions into which the eastern and African church had fallen.)

Grace and peace,

John

Thos said...

Bryan,

I said "How could you have asked those questions on church authority without begging the question?" I should have been more careful with my words. I should have had at the begging of that sentence: "If those questions were begging the question, [then how could you have asked those questions...]"

But as you always say, we must have hope.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Principium unitatis said...

John,

I'm having a hard time following your answer to my question: "But if there is a person or group of persons to whom we all should be subordinate, which person or group of persons is it, and on what basis?"

Your answer, seemingly, is "All Christians should remain subordinate to whomever they are presently subordinate."

In that case, if you think we should all seek full visible unity, how do you avoid the problem I discussed here?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Eric Telfer said...

John,

Thanks. I have just a few minutes and will work for the next 4 days. I will address only part of your kind and generous message, which I am thankful for, both with respect to its content and its delivery, as I have to go to bed and work in the morning.

>The question of who the teachers >should be in Protestantism >appears to assume that >Protestants are assembled not in >churches but ecclesial >communities.

It depends on what the respective terms mean and what we are to do about the fact that 'churches' or 'ecclesial communities' within 'Protestantism' all too often reject each other's claims to truth.

> Since we all come at questions >with our respective backgrounds >and starting points, that is a >fair assumption for a Roman >Catholic to make.

I think it is a fair assumption for a non-Catholic too, and that many Protestants are concerned about the fragmentation, the division, the lack of a clear authority, and even, at times, some very hard feelings between different groups.

> If, however, reformed churches >exist as churches, then the >question is less perplexing.

But the 'churches' would have to have authority and we might need to be able to figure out which one to listen to when they disagree with one another so much. What would set one apart from another?

>The ministry, the shepherds whom >God has set over his flock, is >charged with teaching and leading >the faithful. In the unsettled >present condition of the Church >this admittedly does not work as >well as it would were the Church >better united. But that does not >mean that the ministry has simply >ceased to exist.

Where is the ministry? What is the ministry charged with teaching when the ministers cannot agree on what the true doctrine is? How can the ministers be united if they disagree on so much? By what authority do the ministers teach? Are some self-appointed and at the same time, sometimes forming a Gospel that would not agree with your own? Do these ministers have the resources to protect the original Gospel? Do they know it? Are they in any position to figure out what it was? How would anyone know who to listen to?


> These are strange times, but >this is not the only period when >the ministry has been lamentably >discordant in its teaching (e.g. >think of the chaos of the Arian >controversy).

But the discord is not over one issue. It is over so many issues. Further, I can imagine some suggesting that a schism with the Catholic Church might have been necessary over what the formal cause of justification was in detail, and whether it was single or not. That is a very technical disagreement over the Gospel. But the differences between Protestant 'churches' are far, far more obvious, evident, general, crude, and, I think, substantial. So, if disunity can be justified over a very refined, technical point (albeit important), why can it not be justified over more obvious and more general questions and issues that Protestants actually disagree amongst themselves over? Some Protestant 'churches' are not just not in fully unity with one another, but very much in disagreement with one another over just about everything one can imagine. The disagreements cause 'churches' to split regularly and continually. 'Churches' reject one another over these disagreements. People who have been a part of such church divisions at a local level know how serious they can be and how much negative emotion can be involved and later retained. We are not just talking about discord, but division and fragmentation and, sometimes, a real strong dislike for other churches and groups. Further, some of these so called 'churches' teach things that are not true, and yet some will not submit to another Protestant 'church' anymore than they will submit to the Catholic Church. Many of these 'churches' were started by men who disagreed with other Protestant thinkers and leaders. As Protestants fill up the interpretational possibilities left to us by the Bible being interpreted without an authority that has also given us a systematic theology to work within, more and more 'churches' claiming to have it right come on the map. The disagreements are not over one issue though, but just about every issue one can think of, save a few, and then there are all sorts of disagreements on those at the technical level, which is also the case with the other issues. But Protestantism seems to not have a way of preventing this type of division for the most part, and may actually contain principles which encourage it, not in the sense that any group will be rebelled against by some for a variety of reasons, even if it has authority and sometimes because it has authority, but in the sense that the Protestant experiment seems to fuel division by its own principles.

In the peace of Christ,

Eric

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

Due abhorrence of schism requires that Christians not quit a particular church provided it is possible to continue in communion there without sin and disobedience to God. As Thomas Boston said,

Those who reject communion in the ordinances of Christ with a true church, and separate from her, because of corruptions in her, while in the meantime they might keep communion with her without sin, are guilty of schism and sinful separation: this I think will not be denied, for if our thus keeping communion be not our sin, it must be our duty; surely it is not left indifferent.

It is therefore right that Christians should in general remain obedient to those under whose care they find themselves.

In response to the argument put to Mr. Roberts I would first reiterate that the Church, like a kingdom, is many-sided. It may be viewed from different aspects, of which the institutional or (more narrowly) governmental form is only one.

Regarding the institutional aspect you appear to offer several possibilities:

(a) Christ did not found an institution

(b) Christ did found an institution but it no longer exists

(c) Christ did found an institution and it still exists

I agree that the correct choice is (c), although I do not share your understanding of how the institution now exists. You have argued that the Church is a complex organism of which some parts are more central than others to its continued existence. Specifically, you have said:

But I think there is good reason from the Scripture and the fathers... to believe that the successor of Peter has the role of principium unitatis. This is why, in my opinion, the original institution did not cease to exist when schisms occurred. Those remaining in full communion with the successor of Peter ipso facto remained in the original institution. And those separating from the successor of Peter ipso facto separated from the original institution. That does not mean (necessarily) that those departing from full communion with the successor of Peter depart from the aggregate of all believers.

On this I do not share your assessment of Scripture and the Fathers. Honestly, your way of reading of the Fathers as evidenced here strikes me as anachronistic. For instance, as I have once already noted, we are told:

Tertullian (c. 200 AD) refers to the bishop of Rome as "the Supreme Pontiff ... the bishop of bishops..."

Although I do not doubt your sincerity, I find this manner of presentation very misleading. The work quoted is De Pudicitia, which dates closer to 220 than 200. It belongs to Tertullian's Montanist period and most scholars believer it to have been written directly against Callistus, then Bishop of Rome. When Tertullian speaks of the "Pontifex scilicet maximus, episcopus episcoporum," Newman described these words as written "in indignation and bitter mockery." At most they give indirect proof of a step in the development of the papacy, viz. the high view one Roman bishop had of himself. This is a far cry from the impression one receives when the words are divorced from their historical context. As I have said before, when some on the left liken President Bush to Hitler, their mockery may be taken to suggest that the President holds a high view of executive power (higher at least than others think is appropriate), yet no sensible person would take the derision to imply that the President necessarily claims to exercise powers on par with those of the Fuehrer.

In short, I am convinced that without an extremely accommodating notion of doctrinal development it is impossible to account for the Vatican I conception of the papacy (as it is likewise impossible to account for other Roman distinctives). This view of development is arguably more of a "theological novum" than any teaching advanced by Luther. As Owen Chadwick has pointed out, it is a view of development that appears to be in tension with the traditional conviction set forth, among other places, in Lamentabili Sane that the revelation constituting the object of Catholic faith was completed with the Apostles.

Although I do not find the Roman view of Church unity viable, I do believe that the Church Christ founded continues to exist, including in its institutional aspect. What you have treated as schism and separation simplicter from the institution, I see as, in at least some cases, division in the sense of the branching of the institution. This branching separates the original institution into two parts, both of which (even if one is more to blame than the other) may be in continuity with the institution as it theretofore existed. The division is often not absolute, in that the two parts may be in impaired communion yet may extend a degree of mutual recognition, so that, for example, they may still acknowledge each other's baptisms and ordinations.

From another angle this may be viewed not as division of but division within the original institution. Previously you said that the principles of a Gnostic view of schism when applied to marriage lead to the conclusion: "As long as the husband and wife separate amicably and without any animosity or 'loss of love', and wish the other spouse well, it is not a schism." As we saw in the earlier discussion, the analogy is not perfect. Nontheless, I think it shows how close your position may be to mine. Marriage may not be a sacrament in the proper sense, but Scripture invites us to see it sacramentally. In other words, the union of husband and wife is more profound than a human legal arrangement. As I tried to point out, it seems there is a difference between the esse and the bene esse of a marriage. Sin may lead to a degree of separation between husband and wife. Communion between the spouses may be impaired, and they may even fail to acknowledge each other. This is sad and undesirable, and it is beyond question that there is an obligation to seek reconciliation. Not all separation, however, is tantamount to annihilating the marriage. The esse of the marriage may still be there, even when the reality experienced is far from the bene esse of marriage. Might it not be so with the Church? i.e. might there be a difference between the esse and the bene esse of the Church, so that impaired, even severely strained, relations between particular churches do not annihilate the Church Christ founded? "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." In marriage not only do the spouses unite themselves, but in a real sense God himself unites them. If the marriage becomes strained, the two human parties are not free just to call it off. For since it was not merely they who joined themselves together, but it was even God himself, so it is not merely they who may finally cut the bond between them. What they must do when times are tough is to seek God's grace so as to become what in marriage they are called to be. When we turn to the Church, we see that through baptism is founded a union that is sacramental in the fullest sense. It does not seem too far fetched to think that particular churches are yoked to each other not merely by their own efforts but by God himself. The particular churches may put themselves in impaired communion with each other, they may even fail to acknowledge each other. But then like the spouses, their obligation is to seek to be reconciled, to be restored to communion one with another. If the analogy can be pressed a little further, one might ask what the children should do if the parents become separated. Obviously this is not the ideal way for children to be brought up. But should not the children continue to obey the parent with whom they find themselves, at least as far as they can while obeying God? And if the one parent starts to make unjust demands of them, might they not seek the protection of the other? And who should wonder if some of the children wander, whose parents are so at odds? What, too, if the husband decides as it were to apoluein the wife, and to act as though the marriage is ended, even though the wife has shown no intention of remarrying? Say, too, that the husband starts to speak condescendingly of her, refusing to dignify her with the title of wife, and instead will only call her something like his 'estranged partner.' What is more, what if the reason the wife separated from the husband is that he was demanding she acknowledge him to be in possession of honors God did not give him to have, and he had become irate and threatening when she refused? Maybe he calms down after a while, but what if he steadfastly refuses to take the wife back until she recognize in him the very same honors that she has said all along simply aren't his to claim? And would it not be strange for the husband in such a case to look upon himself as more central to the existence of the marriage than his wife is?

That's not the happiest way to conclude, but I hope it will show from what perspective I am coming.

Grace and peace,

John

Iohannes said...

Eric,

Thanks for your answer. Right now I need to get to bed, and tomorrow I will unfortunately be occupied with work matters and other responsibilities. I will try, though, to get to your comments as soon as I am able. In the mean time, my reply to Bryan's last post may help clarify the position I have been attempting to set forth.

God bless,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

You apparently think all Christians are now in institutional unity. But if that were false, how would the situation look any different?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Eric,

Thanks again for your reply. A gap between things this afternoon has afforded a chance to look over your comment with a little less haste than last night.

Most of what I would say in reply has been covered in the interaction with Bryan's arguments. But there are couple points I would highlight here:

How far division is an inherent characteristic of Protestantism, and how far it is a feature of its manifestation in America (and a wider Christian world influenced by American religious trends), I don't know. But I think we should consider that, as was noted before, America never had a single national Church. When people settled here they transported their religious affiliations to the new territory, and what divided them then was often more culture than doctrine. People became used to this experience of disunity, and it was even seen as a blessing by some of the Founding Fathers, who treated the division of Christianity into competing sects as a good thing for political reasons. Were there to have been one preeminent Church of the United States, I wonder how different things might be today.

On ministerial authority, I do not think Protestants necessarily have to have a self-appointed clergy. The Reformers certainly did not think so. While they rejected Roman notions of Apostolic Succession, they believed a regular succession in the ministry should be the normal practice of the Church. Rome denies that Protestants have a valid ministry (though some might question this about modern Anglicans). I think if one adopts a different ecclesiology, one in which episcopacy is part of the bene esse rather than the esse of the Church, the way things look changes. I see no reason why presbyterial ordination, for example, and hence the succession in the Church of Scotland and presbyterian bodies derived therefrom, is necessarily null and void. If this is so, that is, if Protestants have a valid ministry independent of Rome, then it seems Protestantism may already have the material needed when people wake up to the need for reconsolidating the Church.

I don't want to say much more until you are able to participate again, but I wish you well for now.

God bless,

John

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

Your analogy of schism to the break down of a marriage is again quite helpful. There are two basic types of divorce:

(a) Divorce a mensa et thoro, which is divorce in an improper sense, and is in effect the formal separation of the spouses

(b) Divorce a vinculo matrimonii, which is divorce in the proper sense, so as to free the parties to remarry

Divorce (a) does not dissolve the marriage bond, unlike divorce (b). That is, although the bene esse is lacking, the esse of the marriage remains in (a). The marriage is totally annihilated in (b).

For an outside observer it would often be hard to distinguish divorce (a) from divorce (b). The primary difference between them is legal recognition of the right to remarry. If the parties have separated but neither betrays an intent to remarry, then (a) and (b) may well seem practically indistinguishable. Yet the marriage still exists in the former case, but not in the latter.

If I may return the question, Were papal primacy/supremacy of jurisdiction merely a human invention rather than something instituted by Christ, how would the record of Scripture and the Fathers look different?

God bless,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

I may have missed it, but I didn't find the answer to my question:

"You apparently think all Christians are now in institutional unity. But if that were false, how would the situation look any different?

As for papal jurisdiction, Christ would not have given to Peter the "keys of the kingdom", but only the keys to "the Church at Rome", and would have given other keys (for different geographical areas) to other Apostles.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

You said:

In more complex organisms some parts are more central than others to the continued existence of the organism

And,

But I think there is good reason from the Scripture and the fathers... to believe that the successor of Peter has the role of principium unitatis. This is why, in my opinion, the original institution did not cease to exist when schisms occurred. Those remaining in full communion with the successor of Peter ipso facto remained in the original institution. And those separating from the successor of Peter ipso facto separated from the original institution. That does not mean (necessarily) that those departing from full communion with the successor of Peter depart from the aggregate of all believers.

I don't believe this is the right way to look at the Church's existence. Your analogy to marriage was better.

When communion between the spouses breaks down, the marriage does not ipso facto cease to exist. The realization of communion is part of the bene esse, not the esse of the marriage. When the realization is impaired, as in when wife and husband are separated, it would be absurd for the husband declare himself the focal point of the marriage, so that the wife by being separated from communion with him is now outside the marriage union wrought not merely by the spouses but also by God. The spouses remain married and should seek God's help to be restored to communion with each other.

With regard to the keys, your interpretation assumes more than is necessary to make sense of the passage. There are other ways to read the passage (indeed, among the fathers there are other ways given).

As one alternative I would suggest this interpretation, which seems rather more economical:

Because “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” are specifically mentioned in the thesis, it is appropriate briefly to consider their meaning. It is possible to overemphasize the parallel between this verse and Isaiah 22:22, but both passages certainly illustrate the fact that the key is a symbol of authority. Although the keys are given to Peter, the verse is commonly read with the understanding that the keys were given to the Church in the person of Peter. This prompts the question of why Peter is particularly designated to receive the keys.

To answer this it first must be determined what the keys are. One way to do this is simply to examine Christ’s own words from elsewhere in the gospels. In Luke 11:52, the Lord declares: “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” The parallel verse in Matthew (23:13) reads: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” The relevance of these verses is reinforced by the fact that shortly before them the language of ‘binding’ is used (Luke 11:46, Matt. 23:4).

It seems fair to infer that the power of the keys includes the idea of solemnly opening the kingdom of heaven to men by bringing them true knowledge of the way of salvation. If this is correct, then there is at least one natural reason why the keys would be especially associated with Peter. For it was through the apostle’s preaching at Pentecost that the kingdom was mightily opened to the Jews at Jerusalem, and it was through his visit to Cornelius that the kingdom was first opened to the Gentiles. Peter appears to have recognized this special role for which he was chosen; as he said at the Jerusalem synod in Acts 15:7, “a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.” Thus it appears that the baggage of the papal theory is not needed to explain Peter’s prominent association with the keys.


Grace and peace,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

Again, did I miss it, or did you not answer my question? Here's my question:

"You apparently think all Christians are now in institutional unity. But if that were false, how would the situation look any different?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

You apparently think all Christians are now in institutional unity. But if that were false, how would the situation look any different?

I have answered the question several times. Maybe you are missing the answer because you do not recognize that yours is a complex question, which is divisible into two components:

Does the institution Christ founded now exist?

In what way does the institution exist, i.e. how is it unified?

You have assumed that the institution must be unified *in one specific way* in order to exist. That is, the Church is a complex organism in which one part is necessary for its continued existence, while the other parts are dispensable, and so cease to be part of the organism should they not be in communion with the one necessary part.

I have disputed this assumption. My proposal is that the Church can continue to exist *in another way* different from the way you assume. I have used your own analogy of schism and marriage to show how the institution can be *in one sense* divided (i.e. the breakdown of the realization of communion) and *in another* still united (i.e. human failure in the realization of communion does not annihilate the bond of union, which is the work not merely of the human parties but also of God himself).

This is an alternative to your idea of the Church as a specific kind of organism. We both agree that what Christ founded exists; we disagree about *how* it exists. So far you seem to be relying on stipulation, i.e. the Church must exist in a certain way, otherwise it doesn't exist. If we are going to move forward, you need to substantiate this stipulation about *how* the Church must be organized in order to exist. To do this you need to engage the alternative notion I have suggested of *how* the Church exists.

God bless,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

If you think that the question that I asked was "Does the institution Christ founded now exist?" or "In what way does the institution exist, i.e. how is it unified?", then no wonder I'm not finding the answer to my question in your replies, because I'm not asking either of those two questions. I'm asking exactly and only the question I have stated a few times now. Here it is:

You apparently think all Christians are now in institutional unity. But if that were false, how would the situation look any different?

The answer to a question of the form "If x were false, how would the situation look any different?" should be something like this: "If x were false, the situation would look like ______".

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

I have given an alternative perspective on *how* the Church Christ founded presently exists. You have previously likened schism to separation of spouses in a marriage. Well, I think that's a decent way to view it. And based on your analogy I answered your question:

For an outside observer it would often be hard to distinguish (a) divorce a mensa et thoro from (b) divorce a vinculo matrimonii. The primary difference between them is legal recognition of the right to remarry. If the parties have separated but neither betrays an intent to remarry, then (a) and (b) may well seem practically indistinguishable. Yet the marriage still exists in the former case, but not in the latter.

Do you agree? If not, to what specifically do you object?

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

So, your answer to my question: "If it were false that all Christians are in institutional unity, how would the situation look any different?" is "It would look no different."

Is that your answer?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

Sure, as I said, to an outsider it would not necessarily look different.

But tell me, if you were really a hypocrite in your profession of Christ, would things necessarily look any different? Not that I am saying you are.

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

So all the Protestant denominations could right now be in fact schisms from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, and it wouldn't look any different than it looks right now? In other words, the situation of manifold schism, and the situation of institutional unity, look exactly alike?

When I say "These persons are all in institutional unity", I mean something quite incompatible with some of those persons being in schism from the institution the others are in. But you, apparently, are using the term 'institutional unity' to refer to a situation in which some of the persons could be in schism from the institution in which the others are, and we would have no way of knowing the difference.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

John,

If you haven't read it yet, see the section titled "The Possibility of Schism as a Test of Ecclesiology" in "The Sacrilege of Schism".

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

You have not answered the question about how it would necessarily look any different were a professed Christian really a hypocrite, a wolf in sheep's clothing. The point was that, as I have told you before, we may think of the Church as simul una ac divisa, just as we may think even of the sincere Christian as simul iustus et peccator. In the case of the professed Christian, since the evidence available to us may be given varying interpretations, factors beyond the empirical determine which interpretation we adopt and act upon. Much the same holds true with the example of marriage and separation. Presumably you agree that the spouses cannot of themselves dissolve the marriage bond. But people act as if they can all the time. The state grants a divorce decree, and the spouses certainly treat the marriage bond as dissolved. If you were to protest to the man that the marriage bond still exists, so that it would be adultery for him to remarry, he might well say: "You apparently think marriage is indissoluble. But if that were false, how would the situation look any different?" Well, how would it? It seems your disagreement with him is about more than the empirical facts of the case.

The remarks you cite on the possibility of schism as a test of ecclesiology apparently involve the same error made by the divorced man above. The realization of communion and the reality of essential union are confounded. And so, when the human parties fail to realize experientially the communion to which they are called, the bond of union dissolves. But what does Christ say? "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." The bond of union in fact exists absolutely, being quite independent of the degree of human realization in communion. For the union is sacramental, wrought not merely by human parties but also by God himself.

What happens, then, when there is schism, i.e., when the communion between parts of the Church breaks down? Look again at your analogy to marriage. All the parts of the Church are as it were yoked to all the other parts. Like the spouses united in marriage, they are called to realize communion with one another. Due to sin, however, grave circumstances sometimes render it necessary and proper for a spouse to pursue formal separation (divorce a mensa et thoro). Thus it is when one part of the Church breaks from communion with another part. The schism is very real, just as real as when spouses separate. But separation does not ipso facto annihilate the esse of the marriage bond, and schism does not ipso facto annihilate the essential bond uniting the parts of the Church. The experience of the Church in schism is like the experience of the separated couple--that of being simulateneously in a real sense united and in a real sense divided.

When spouses separate, they are called to reconcile. They do not need to be remarried; what they need is to realize through the experience of love and communion the marriage bond that already exists between them. In the case of the Church, it is no more "Pelagian" for us, while praying for God's help, to labor to restore communion between the separated parts, than it is for the separated spouses, also seeking God's help, to work to be restored to loving communion with each other. The effort then isn't to effect the bond of union--that would be Pelagian--but rather to restore the communion between what God has already united.

What is it that releases from the marriage bond? It might be allowed, for example, that by economy God releases the innocent party when, after separation, the other spouse abandons the marriage and makes restoration impossible by remarrying. But that potential exception is probably beside the point here. Ordinarily it is death that releases from marriage. Unless one of the spouses dies, communion or the restoration of communion should be the goal. In the case of the Church, it may happen that after a schism one part of the Church sooner or later dies. Should that occur, it is to be lamented. But as long as the parts separated from each other are living, they should earnestly endeavor the restoration of communion.

Which picture of the Church is more realistic? (a) That which [so far without proof of why it must be so] stipulates that the bishop of Rome is the necessary center and the rest is dispensable? Or (b) that which treats all the parts of the Church as yoked by God to each other?

You have said: In more complex organisms some parts are more central than others to the continued existence of the organism. This is why, for example, if you lose your toe you neither cease to exist nor do you continue on as a toe.

But when the toe is severed from the body it quickly dies. It doesn't seem that parts of the Church necessarily die when separated from communion with the bishop of Rome. Even the Oriental Orthodox are still with us to this day.

In light of the record from Scripture, the Fathers, and Church history more generally, I don't see what it is that recommends vision (a) over vision (b). The former seems to become very brittle and artificial when we examine it. The latter seems to have more explanatory power, and seems rather more likely to foster ecumenical progress.

Grace and peace,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

As for your question about wolves in sheep's clothing, we shall know them by their fruit. A hypocrite reveals his colors over time.

I don't disagree with your comments about marriage.

As for your question:

Which picture of the Church is more realistic? (a) That which [so far without proof of why it must be so] stipulates that the bishop of Rome is the necessary center and the rest is dispensable? Or (b) that which treats all the parts of the Church as yoked by God to each other?

This seems to be a straw man of the Catholic position. It was always the Church's position that Rome held the primacy. Nobody "stipulated it". Nobody said the "rest is dispensable".

As for (b), when you use the word 'Church', exactly what are you referring to?

But when the toe is severed from the body it quickly dies. It doesn't seem that parts of the Church necessarily die when separated from communion with the bishop of Rome. Even the Oriental Orthodox are still with us to this day.

That's not a good argument, because Marcion's 'church' apparently survived into the Middle Ages, and surely you would agree that that was a heresy. Therefore endurance alone does not prove that something is still part of the Church or that it is orthodox.

In light of the record from Scripture, the Fathers, and Church history more generally, I don't see what it is that recommends vision (a) over vision (b).

My selections from the fathers supports Petrine primacy. Do you have a comparable set of passages from the fathers that refutes Petrine primacy?

The former seems to become very brittle and artificial when we examine it.

Those don't seem to be very objective criteria.

The latter seems to have more explanatory power

To explain what? How so?

and seems rather more likely to foster ecumenical progress.

If I were a pragmatist, then I would build my ecclesiology around what I think most effectively fosters "ecumenical progress". But I'm not a pragmatist; I think pragmatism is false. I want the truth, even if it ends up being a stone of stumbling to "ecumenical progress".

I would rather not dialogue in this shotgun style, with many different questions on the table at once. I would prefer to focus on one thing at a time, in shorter, more compact replies.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Iohannes said...

Bryan,

It takes some space to address the many assumptions underlying your position. You have a large corpus of online writings to which you regularly direct readers and interlocutors. If you expect others to wade through your material, it seems fair that you wade through their responses.

Be that as it may, if you wish to concentrate narrowly on one thing at a time, I will focus solely on what I take to be the most important part of your comment. The rest I will pass by, unless you specifically ask that it be addressed.

It was always the Church's position that Rome held the primacy. Nobody "stipulated it".

And,

My selections from the fathers supports Petrine primacy. Do you have a comparable set of passages from the fathers that refutes Petrine primacy?

(1) Primacy is not a simple concept. A primacy of (a) auctoritas or dignitas need not be (b) a primacy of potestas or juridical supremacy. A primacy of auctoritas is compatible with the primate being primus inter pares with respect to formal power. It is also compatible with the auctoritas of the primate being inferior to the auctoritas of the larger body.

(2) I believe your selections from the fathers are skewed by a strongly anachronistic reading of Church history. I also am doubtful whether you have read all the selections you provide in context. If you will continue to refer to this list of passages, I would like you to defend your presentation of Tertullian's words in De Pudicitia. See the criticism above.

(3) My understanding of relevant history remains as follows: There was no “papacy” in the earliest period of Church history, but on the other there were intimations of what would become the papacy. These included: the ability of the Roman church to show a direct connection to the apostles Peter and Paul, which was important in debunking Gnostic claims to a secret tradition; the prestige of the church in Rome owing to the prominence of the imperial city (cf. canon 28 of Chalcedon); the role of the church's leaders in taking the correct, or at least the prevailing, side in early controversies, e.g. the date of Easter and whether to rebaptize; and the status of Rome as the mother church for the West, which first involved her in judicial appeals of local decisions, and then led Rome gradually to assume the relation of teacher to other churches.

(4) To see more of what I understand as the historical facts about the origins and development of papal primacy, I would refer you again to the work by Klaus Schatz, a Jesuit Church historian trained at the Gregorianum. I can largely find common ground with Schatz about the empirical record because my difference with him pertains not so much to the facts but to their interpretation. He takes a flexible, post-Newman view of development, whereas I hold a view closer to J.B. Mozley's. Schatz writes at the beginning of his book:

The further question whether there was any notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime, if posed in purely historical terms, should probably be answered in the negative. That is, if we ask whether the historical Jesus, in commissioning Peter, expected him to have successors, or whether the author of the Gospel of Matthew, writing after Peter’s death, was aware that Peter and his commission survived in the leaders of the Roman community who succeeded him, the answer in both cases is probably “no.”

If we ask in addition whether the primitive Church was aware, after Peter’s death, that his authority had passed to the next bishop of Rome, or in other words that the head of the community at Rome was now the successor of Peter, the Church’s rock and hence the subject of the promise in Matthew 16:18-19, the question, put in those terms, must certainly be given a negative answer.

If one had asked a Christian in the year 100, 200, or even 300 whether the bishop of Rome was the head of all Christians, or whether there was a supreme bishop over all the other bishops and having the last word in questions affecting the whole Church, he or she would certainly have said no.


He then remarks on his view of development:

But for a responsible hermeneutic this does not provide a negative response to the underlying question, which encompasses more than the perspective of Jesus himself and that of the New Testament. Even if they were not ‘aware’ of such an office, that does not mean that the figure and commission of the Peter of the New Testament did not encompass the possibility, if it is projected into a Church enduring for centuries and concerned in some way to ’secure’ its ties to its apostolic origins and to Jesus himself.

(5) I would like to know whether you agree with this assessment from Schatz, both as relates to facts and to the interpretation thereof. I would also like to know whether you believe it possible to establish the Vatican I doctrine of papal status using a pre-Newman view of development.

This is a longer answer than you probably wanted. But it should be obvious that I have not told you anything new. You have heard all of this before, but have never given much of a response to it. I would like now to see your response.

Grace and peace,

John

Principium unitatis said...

John,

People stating their opinions is not evidence or argumentation. It is just more stated opinions. Speculation is cheap; it doesn't take a PhD to do it. And it doesn't show anything at all about what is true concerning the point in question. In philosophy, the argument from an alleged authority is a fallacy. When Richard Dawkins makes various claims about the implications of evolution, many people are influenced by him, precisely because of his academic credentials. But he's wrong; his arguments are bad, and his speculation is worse. Likewise, I don't jump when Schatz says 'boo'. I've personally experienced many philosophy PhDs significantly wrong on major points of philosophy.

If you are trying to persuade me to adopt your position, then you need to point to evidence and make arguments. The argument to authority does not move me, precisely because that's a fallacy (except in the case of divine authority).

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Eric Telfer said...

John had mentioned a good book called _The Rise of Moralism_ by Allison. I was able to read it and enjoyed it very much. I respond briefly to it here.

Eric