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

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Justification: Divided over Charity


Council of Trent
Paolo Farinatis (c. 1524 - c. 1606)
(click on the painting for a larger image)



According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Protestantism, there are three primary theological principles separating Catholics and Protestants. These principles have to do with justification, Church tradition, and Church authority. Here I want to focus on justification, briefly laying out the fundamental difference between the Catholic and Protestant positions on this doctrine only with respect to the role of charity.

Protestants and Catholics have somewhat different definitions of the term 'justification'. For Protestants, 'justification' refers not only to an initial justification at the moment of faith, but also to a final justification at the Final Judgment (see, for example, here and here). The Catholic understanding of the term 'justification' includes a third aspect: ongoing justification (see here). That is partly because the Catholic Church defines 'justification' such that sanctification is intrinsically included within it (see here), while Protestants define 'justification' such that sanctification is not included within it per se, but is supposed to attend or follow it.

These disagreements between Protestants and Catholics are partly semantic differences. Mere semantic differences are not substantive differences. But the disagreements are not entirely semantic. In this post, however, I will focus only on one aspect of [initial] justification, namely, its relation to charity.

Recently, Pope Benedict spoke about justification as the topic of one of his weekly general audiences. That address is something I hope all Protestants will carefully and prayerfully read. In that address he said the following:


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

Responding to Pope Benedict's statement quoted above, R. Scott Clark, professor of Church History & Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary [a Protestant seminary] wrote [UPDATE: his post has been moved to his new blog here] the following:


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

Clark suggests that the fundamental point of disagreement between Catholics and Protestants regarding justification is whether charity is or is not necessarily present with justifying faith as its form. In other words, Is the faith by which we are justified necessarily formed by charity [fides formata caritate ] or not?

Catholics understand charity to be that theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God - see CCC 1822 and ST II-II Q.23 a.3. And Catholics do believe that charity is evidence of justification, and that charitable actions are the fruit of justification. But the fundamental point of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics with respect to the role of charity in [initial] justification seems to be whether charity is necessarily present within the person having justifying faith, or whether charity only necessarily follows justifying faith as its fruit. We can see the Catholic position on the relation of justifying faith and charity in Chapter VII of Session VI of the Council of Trent in 1547:


For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the hearts of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity. This faith, conformably to Apostolic tradition, catechumens ask of the Church before the sacrament of baptism, when they ask for the faith that gives eternal life, which without hope and charity faith cannot give.

(To avoid the technical part of this post, skip over the following section between the dashed lines.)

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Why does the Council of Trent teach that charity must be present in us in order for our faith to be justifying? St. Thomas Aquinas addresses the relation of charity and justifying faith in Summa Theologica II-II Q.4 a.3, where he argues that charity is the form of faith. First, consider some background philosophical anthropology.

Rational beings each possess two rational powers: intellect and will. The intellect is by its nature directed toward the true; the will is by its nature directed to the good. These two powers (i.e. intellect and will) have habits, i.e. dispositions. Good habits are called virtues; bad habits are called vices. The virtues can be divided into the natural virtues and the supernatural virtues. The natural virtues can be acquired (though not perfectly) through the use of our own powers, without supernatural infusion. There are three supernatural virtues, called 'supernatural' because they can be acquired only by supernatural infusion. Hence they are also called the "theological virtues". They are faith, hope, and charity. Faith is a virtue of the intellect; charity is a virtue of the will. The theological virtue of hope also is a virtue of the will.

Why then, according to Aquinas, is charity the form of faith? In ST II-II Q.4 a.3 he writes:



As appears from what has been said above (I-II, 1, 3; I-II, 18, 6), voluntary acts take their species from their end which is the will's object. Now that which gives a thing its species, is after the manner of a form in natural things. Wherefore the form of any voluntary act is, in a manner, the end to which that act is ordered, both because it takes its species therefrom, and because the mode of an action should correspond proportionately to the end. Now it is evident from what has been said (art. 1), that the act of faith is directed to the object of the will, i.e. the good, as to its end: and this good which is the end of faith, viz. the Divine Good, is the proper object of charity. Therefore charity is called the form of faith in as much as through charity the act of faith is perfected and is formed.

What is Aquinas saying here? His argument can be analyzed in this way:

(1) Voluntary acts take their species from their end, which is the will's object. [From ST I-II Q.1 a.3 and ST I-II Q.18 a.6]

(2) That which gives a thing its species is its form, in the manner of a form in natural things.

Hence

(3) The form of any voluntary act is, in a manner, the end to which that act is directed. [From (1) and (2)]

(4) An act of faith is related both to the object of the will, i.e. to the good and the end, and to the object of the intellect, i.e. the true. [ST II-II Q.4 a.1]

(5) The act of faith is directed to the object of the will, i.e. the good, as to its end. [From (4)]

(6) This good which is the end of faith, viz. the Divine Good, is the proper object of charity. [From ST II-II Q.24 a.1]

Therefore,

(7) Charity is the form of faith inasmuch as through charity the act of faith is perfected and is formed. [From (3), (5),(6)]

Premises (1)-(3) are quite straightforward. To understand the basis for premise (4), we have to look back at ST II-II Q.4 a.1. Recall that faith is "the substance of things hoped for". (Hebrews 11:1) Because hope is a virtue of the will, faith is a virtue of the intellect, and because faith is defined as "the substance of things hoped for" (ST II-II Q.4 a.1), therefore the act of faith on the part of the intellect is directed to the same object and end that the act of charity on the part of the will is directed to (i.e. the Divine Good). Premise (5) follows directly from (4). Premise (6) is drawn from ST II-II Q.24 a.1, where Aquinas argues that the subject of charity is not the sensitive, but the intellective appetite, i.e. the will, which is ordered to the good. (To understand why charity is a virtue of the [rational] appetite, see also my post titled "Love and Unity: Part 2".) Charity is thus the form of faith [forma fidei], in that it is only through charity that the act of faith attains the end by which it is given its species.

Aquinas makes this even clearer in the following article (ST II-II Q.4 a.4), where he argues that unformed faith [fides informis] is the same habit as formed faith. He writes:



We must therefore hold differently that formed faith and unformed faith [fidei formatae et informis] are one and the same habit. The reason is that a habit is differentiated by that which directly pertains to that habit. Now since faith is a perfection of the intellect, that pertains directly to faith, which pertains to the intellect. Again, what pertains to the will, does not pertain directly to faith, so as to be able to differentiate the habit of faith. But the distinction between formed faith and unformed faith [fidei formatae et informis] is in respect of something pertaining to the will, i.e. charity, and not in respect of something pertaining to the intellect. Therefore formed faith and unformed faith [fides formata et informis] are not distinct habits.
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What is this unformed faith [fides informis]? Aquinas identifies it with the faith referred to in James 2:20, where St. James writes that "faith without works is dead'. Thus according to Aquinas, fides informis is "dead faith". What makes it dead is the absence of the virtue of charity in the will, for as St. Paul says in Galatians 5:6, "faith worketh through charity". [cf. ST II-II Q.4 a.2 arg.3] In other words, what distinguishes formed faith [i.e. living faith] from unformed faith [i.e. dead faith] is nothing in the faith itself, that is, nothing in the habit in the intellect. Rather, what distinguishes formed faith (i.e. living faith) from unformed faith (i.e. dead faith) is that the former is accompanied by the supernatural virtue of charity in the will, while the latter is not accompanied by the supernatural virtue of charity in the will.

The interesting thing here is that Protestants do not believe that anyone is justified by dead faith. Protestants believe, with Catholics, that a justifying faith must be a living faith. So the difference between Catholics and Protestants with respect to this point is that Protestants do not believe that charity is what makes faith living (though they do believe that charity necessarily follows living faith), while Catholics believe that charity is precisely what makes faith living.

This raises the following questions for Protestants: What is the difference between dead faith and living faith? More specifically, what does living faith have per se that dead faith does not? Are they two species of faith? If so, are they both gifts of God? If so, when a man moves from dead faith to living faith, does God take away His previous gift of dead faith? If God does not do so, then does the gift of dead faith remain in the man, but inactive for the rest of his life as a believer? On the other hand, if dead faith is *not* a supernatural gift of God, then how is it different from any belief about God we might come to merely through our natural power of reason? And if dead faith is no different from any belief about God we might come to merely through our natural power of reason, why is it rightly called 'faith'? Moreover, how can charity be the fruit of living faith if living faith does not contain charity? In other words, how can charity come from non-charity?

In his Institutes, John Calvin briefly treats the relation of charity to faith. There he writes, "For the teaching of the Schoolmen, that love is prior to faith and hope, is mere madness; for it is faith alone that first engenders love in us." (Institutes, III.2.41) Aquinas discusses this question in ST II-II Q.4 a.7 and ST II-II Q.17 a.8. Aquinas makes a distinction between the order of generation and the order of perfection. In the order of generation, faith precedes hope and charity, because we cannot hope in or love what we do not know. This is because the movement of the will toward its end depends upon the intellect presenting this end to it. But, according to Aquinas, in the order of perfection, charity precedes hope and faith. This can be shown from what St. Paul himself says in 1 Corinthians 13:13.

When Calvin claims that "faith alone first engenders love in us", there is a certain *qualified* sense in which a Catholic can agree, because faith precedes charity in the order of generation. But the question is whether faith without charity simultaneously co-present, is living, and thus justifying, faith. In his article, Clark cites Calvin's commentary on Galatians, where Calvin writes: "When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle." (Commentary on Galatians 5.6, 1548). By "the exclusive particle" Calvin means the term 'alone', as in "faith alone". So we see here Calvin at least implicitly denying that charity is necessarily simultaneously co-present with justifying faith.

The Catholic Church teaches that the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity are infused into us when we receive the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of baptism. St. Paul writes that "the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). Only when faith is living (i.e. accompanied by the virtue of charity as its form), is faith justifying. Notice that this does not mean that the deathbed convert must do charitable works in order to be justified. It does mean, however, that unless there is charity in his will, whatever virtue of faith is present in his intellect is not a justifying faith.

Professor Clark seems not recognize that justification being progressive is fully compatible with an initial justification. For example, Pope Benedict claims that "Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love." Clark responds by saying, This is code for "to be gradually sanctified and gradually justified." Of course Catholics do believe that being conformed to Christ and entering His love is something that does continue over the course of a believer's life, insofar as the believer makes use of the means of grace. But, Catholics also believe that in our [initial] justification in the sacrament of baptism, we are at that moment "conformed to Christ and enter into His love", for at that moment we receive His life and love and Holy Spirit into our hearts. The death-bed convert who converts in his dying breath, is at that very moment truly "conformed to Christ", even though at that moment he might not yet be as conformed to Christ as he possibly could be, and will be in heaven.

If Clark is right that this disagreement between Protestants and Catholics regarding the role of charity in [initial] justification is "the difference between Rome and Wittenberg", then I'm left wondering how Protestants can be so sure that charity is not what makes faith living, that they are willing to make (or perpetuate) this 488 year-old schism on account of it. I invite my Protestant brothers and sisters, in this week of prayer for Christian unity, to consider prayerfully this fundamental point of disagreement. It is tragic and ironic that we should be divided over the role of charity. May charity break down this division between us, by the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit.

15 comments:

heidelblog said...

Bryan,

You should see R. Scott Clark, "Iustitia Imputata Christi: Alien or Proper to Luther’s Doctrine of Justification?" Concordia Theological Quarterly 70 (2006): 269–310 where this issue is discussed at length.

We are sure because of the object of faith in the act of justification: Jesus. Our justification is as certain as Jesus is righteous.

No scheme of intrinsic sanctification and progressive justification can explain Paul's language adequately nor can it ever offer a basis for assurance since no one is ever actually fully sanctified in this life.

That's why the ground of our justification (God's declaration: "Righteous!") is extrinsic (extra nos) and not intrinsic (iustitia propria). On this see R. Scott Clark, Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant, chs 7-8.

Principium Unitatis said...

Thanks Scott.

I'll take a look at these references.

Specifically what language of Paul do you think cannot be explained if sanctification is intrinsic to justification?

And I agree that the Catholic and Reformed conceptions of assurance are different. I didn't address that in this post, because I was trying to focus on the role of charity. But I would like to discuss that at some point in the future.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

daniel said...

Hi Bryan,

Thank you for this excellent post, and (for that matter) all of your previous posts on justification. As a former Protestant, the issue of justification was a sticking point during my journey to Rome. When one grows up seeing it from the Protestant perspective, it can be very difficult to shift paradigms.

I have a question relating to this phrase: "Faith is a virtue of the intellect."

Elsewhere in the Summa (II-II.2.a9) Aquinas states "Now the act of believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the Divine truth at the command of the will moved by the grace of God, so that it is subject to the free-will in relation to God; and consequently the act of faith can be meritorious."

It seems to me that Aquinas is saying that the act of faith is when one wills a particular belief (an 'assenting to') over and above what the intellect is naturally capable of. He's still calling it an act of the intellect, but it also seems like he's saying that it's an act of the will. And if faith is said to be "a virtue of the intellect," why does it appear above as though it is also/instead an act of the will?

Principium Unitatis said...

Hello Daniel,

Thanks for your comments, and your good question. I recommend looking at ST I Q.82 a.4. There Aquinas explains how the will (as agent) moves the intellect, while the intellect (as end) moves the will.

So the act of believing is "an act of the intellect assenting to the Divine truth at the command of the will moved by the grace of God". This command of the will is not the same as the act of the will by which we love God in response to assenting (in our intellect) to His self-revelation. As Augustine said, we cannot love what we do not know. So the act of love must follow the act of the intellect by which we grasp as true what God has revealed about Himself. So there are two acts of the will. The first moves the intellect to assent to God's self-revelation. (It is this command of the will that makes the act of faith meritorious, according to Aquinas in ST II-II Q.2 a.9.) The second act of the will is a loving response to God as known by our intellect.

Even though the intellect is moved by the will (as agent), faith is a habit of the intellect because faith's immediate object is the true, as Aquinas argues in ST II-II Q.4 a.2. In ST II-II Q.6 a.1, Aquinas shows that God is the cause of faith in man in two ways, both by proposing to man what is to believed, and by moving man inwardly, yet not so as to destroy or inhibit man's free will. Man can, with his free will, reject grace.

Aquinas explains in his reply to the first objection (ST II-II Q.2 a.9) that the first act of the will is only meritorious when it is accompanied by charity.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

PaulSceptic said...

If we all recognized Paul as a false apostle and went back to Jesus Christ and his teachings rather than Paul's "ignore the sermon on the mount--listen to me!" then we could be united!

Principium Unitatis said...

"PaulSceptic"

The fourth session of the Council of Trent infallibly declared that the letters of Paul are part of Scripture.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Strider said...

More often than not, it seems to me, Catholic and Reformation theologians talk past each other on the question of justification. The Lutheran/Catholic dialogue has demonstrated that substantive convergence can occur when theologians seek to understand the motivations that drive both evangelical and Catholic construals of justification.

I'd like to propose the following statement by the late Richard John Neuhaus as a good starting point for discussion:

“When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will not plead any work that I have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their company, their example, and their prayers throughout my earthly life I will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to turn faith into a meritorious work of my won. I will not plead that I held the correct understanding of “justification by faith alone,” although I will thank God that he led me to know ever more fully the great truth that much misunderstood formulation was intended to protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways - these and all other gifts received I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will … look to Christ and Christ alone.”

If a Catholic can confess this, how far apart are the two sides really? Are the remaining differences truly church-dividing?

Principium Unitatis said...

Thanks Strider. I don't know of any Catholics who plan on pulling out a list of their own good works on Judgment Day. We seek to work out our salvation in fear in trembling, as the Scripture says. But we know that our salvation is all by the grace and mercy of God. Every good deed that we might do is first a gift *from* God to us. So, I think Catholics can agree with Fr. Neuhaus's statement. The Joint Statement shows some steps to mutual understanding and common ground. But not all Lutherans participated. So we would need to bring in some Lutherans to hear their thoughts on your question.

Thanks for your comments.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Jamie Stober said...

Bryan,
I have to say that I found this post very constructive and informative. Thank you for the clarity with which you express the teachings of your Church. I'll take a stab at answering the questions you raise for Protestants. In regard to the differences between dead faith and living faith I would have to say that the word faith is being used in different senses in different places in Scripture. The faith that saves, i.e., living faith, and dead faith, which even the demons exhibit, are two different things. Because demons exhibit dead faith, it is highly improper to call it a supernatural gift of God, much less the fact that it is called dead. Should we not speak of all supernatural gifts as living? Furthermore, if dead faith is a supernatural gift, how can it exist in one who is not in the state of grace, much less in demons?

If dead faith is not a supernatural gift, how is it different from any belief we might come to merely through our natural power of reason? Dead faith, which we might call natural belief, is merely in the intellect, but living faith is held both in the heart and the mind. I would speak of the difference between the abstract knowledge of things about God vs. the concrete knowledge of God as he is toward us. Why do the biblical writers designate dead faith by the word "faith"? Well, we know that biblical writers do not always use terms univocally, not even individual writers, and the way terms are used may differ from writer to writer. We conclude that Paul and James are using the term "faith" differently and that Paul uses the term in differing senses in Ephesians 2:8 and in 1 Corinthians 13:2.

I think the question more central to the issue you are discussing is about how charity can be the fruit of living faith if living faith does not contain charity. This is right at the very heart of the disagreement between our formulations, as Dr. Clark points out. I'm going to approach it slightly differently from how he does, but as he notes in his first comment on this blog post, the reason why "faith alone" vs. faith perfected or formed by charity is Christendom-dividing rests fundamentally on the matter of assurance. Perhaps it would be better to speak about that particular issue in another place, but just as all the issues that divide us have an interconnection with one another, so also it is in this case and especially so. That's why I would like to talk about it if you'll permit me.

Jamie Stober said...

Continued from above:
For the Reformers, as I have shown on Jason Kettinger's blog (http://kettinger.blogspot.com/2012/02/to-certain-enthusiastic-lutherans-this.html) and as I partially alluded to above, the faith that justifies is not merely in the intellect but it resides also and especially in the hearts of believers. In light of that, I will not deny the presence of charity within the faith that saves. Yes, because Protestants do not place faith exclusively in the intellect but place it primarily in the heart, when we say "faith alone" we do not mean what Catholics fear we mean with the term "faith alone." At that level, our disagreement is perhaps merely semantic.

Where the real substance of the disagreement lies is in regard to our understanding of what we personally contribute in the acquisition of saving faith. In other words, do we assure ourselves of saving faith on the basis of what we have contributed? We would say it is not by our movement of our own will that saving faith is kindled in our hearts. Saving, living faith coming to be in our hearts we regard as a unilateral work of God. As a result, it is when we see Aquinas speak of the "acts of faith" of the believer and of love preceding faith in the order of perfection, that we must demur. We would not have believers grounding the assurance of their salvation on the degree of the perfection of their faith and love, because we will never be fully sanctified in this life. Furthermore, the discussion of how fully-formed our faith is turns our gaze from the object of our faith--Our Lord Jesus Christ. When we say "faith alone," we really mean "Christ alone." We are trying to communicate that saving faith is that which he alone places in our hearts, not we ourselves. Charity toward God within saving faith we also regard as poured into our hearts from him alone. We can grant charity toward God within saving faith, but only so long as it is not the basis for our justification as something we must contribute in order to perfect faith. This, of course, should naturally lead us into a discussion of anthropological concerns, but that I will leave for another time.

Peace,
Jamie Stober

Principium Unitatis said...

Hello Jamie,

Thanks for your comment. Keep in mind that these are two paradigms, and my point in this post isn't so much to criticize either paradigm, but to present the two paradigms as paradigms, and help persons on both sides see the two paradigms. My conclusion (earlier in this process) was that the Catholic paradigm, as such, is not at all easy to refute, or even show to be inferior to the Protestant paradigm. So take my responses below in that way.

You write, "Because demons exhibit dead faith, it is highly improper to call it a supernatural gift of God." I don't see how that conclusion follows from that premise. I'll say it more explicitly: that conclusion does not follow from that premise.

You write: "Should we not speak of all supernatural gifts as living?" Perhaps if I was 'doing theology' by the seat of my pants, and apart from the tradition, I might speculatively say yes. But your question doesn't provide a basis for the answer. Living faith, according to the tradition of the Church, is faith working through agape. If agape is not present, but the person still sincerely affirms the faith of the Church (e.g. the Creed), his faith is no longer living, even though assenting to the divine mysteries cannot be done by human reason alone, and therefore the faith he possesses (even though not a living faith) is necessarily a supernatural gift of God. No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. So if a man affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God come in the flesh, then he has faith. But if at the same time he is living in mortal sin, his faith is both supernatural (since human reason is incapable on its own of affirming the supernatural mysteries), and dead, according to the definition of living faith as "faith working through agape," since one cannot have agape and be living in mortal sin.

You write: "Furthermore, if dead faith is a supernatural gift, how can it exist in one who is not in the state of grace, much less in demons?" Because to be in a state of grace means to have both sanctifying grace and agape. So, to not be in a state of grace does not entail anything about the absence of faith; it entails only the absence of sanctifying grace and agape.

Principium Unitatis said...

(cont.)

You write: "If dead faith is not a supernatural gift, how is it different .... " Dead faith is a supernatural gift, for the reason explained above. Human reason alone is incapable of grasping the supernatural mysteries.

You write: "Dead faith, which we might call natural belief, .... " The problem with that claim is that it is Pelagian. It grants to man, an ability by his own nature and power, to believe supernatural mysteries, that require grace in order to be grasped and affirmed by creatures.

You write: "... rests fundamentally on the matter of assurance. Perhaps it would be better to speak about that particular issue in another place..." No, please feel free to write about it here, if you wish.

You write, "I will not deny the presence of charity within the faith that saves." -- That is good (in the sense of coming very close to being common ground).

You write, "Yes, because Protestants do not place faith exclusively in the intellect but place it primarily in the heart, when we say "faith alone" we do not mean what Catholics fear we mean with the term "faith alone." At that level, our disagreement is perhaps merely semantic." If only it were merely semantic. In Catholic doctrine, faith is a virtue. Virtues are acquired dispositions that exist only in powers. And faith is an acquired (in this case supernaturally infused) disposition in the intellect to assent to what God has revealed on the authority of God who revealed it. The assent requires an act of the will, but assenting to what God has revealed is an act of the intellect, because it is not merely saying the words "I do;" it is actually believing what has been divinely revealed. And believing a proposition (as opposed to merely asserting a proposition) is an act of the intellect moved to assent by the will. See Summa Theologica II-II Q.4 a.2.

Regarding assurance, if you were living in obstinate fornication or adultery, and you said, "I base my assurance on Christ alone, not myself," then you would be self-deceived. And no Church Father would say otherwise. Therefore you too must look at your own life, if you want assurance of being in a state of grace, and if you want to want to have any right to claim to be in keeping with the Tradition. I have discussed the issue of assurance with a MS Lutheran named Nathan, on Called To Communion. The exchange between him and myself begins in comment #178 of the "Reformation Sunday 2011: How Would Protestants Know When to Return?" thread, and continues through comment #274. I think our [yours and mine] discussion on assurance would be more profitable if you first read that discussion between Nathan and myself there.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Jamie Stober said...

Bryan,

I was just putting forth some preliminary observations as a Protestant about areas within the Roman Catholic paradigm that did not quite make sense to me. Do not regard them as an attempt to refute your paradigm. I was simply speaking within a Protestant paradigm about why, according to the logic of our paradigm, we differ from your paradigm. I thought you had wanted us to answer your questions from our paradigm. As such, your response to my observation that supernatural gifts should plausibly be thought of as living by appeal to your own tradition really has little more basis outside of its own paradigm than my observation that supernatural gifts should be regarded as living does outside a Protestant paradigm, which assumes that because the Word of God is living and the content of faith is the Word of God, then the faith of one who assents with trust from the heart to the living Word of God is living.

In regard to my question: "If dead faith is a supernatural gift, how can exist in one who is not in a state of grace?" I had simply failed to understand a distinction within the Catholic paradigm. Thanks for clarifying for me the distinction between supernatural gifts on the one hand and sanctifying grace on the other.

In paragraph 1 of response 12 in this thread where you reference my question: "If dead faith is not a supernatural gift, how is it different…?" I was simply restating the "on the other hand" question you raised for Protestants in your post. I was answering from the point of if it's not, as the question asks. The observations on which the tentative assumption was based I presented prior.

And I admit that perhaps in regard to dead faith, I'm not entirely sure how a Protestant paradigm would deal holistically with the question. I do think we would both agree that an intellectual understanding of mysteries that is a gift from God is not saving if it is not lodged also within one's heart. Never are beings without love and trust in God regarded as in a saving relationship with him. The understanding of divine mysteries they possess may be "faith" and it may be supernatural, but this denotes something distinct from the faith alone by which Protestants believe salvation comes.

Jamie Stober said...

(continued)

You write:

"Keep in mind that these are two paradigms, and my point in this post isn't so much to criticize either paradigm, but to present the two paradigms as paradigms, and help persons on both sides see the two paradigms. My conclusion (earlier in this process) was that the Catholic paradigm, as such, is not at all easy to refute, or even show to be inferior to the Protestant paradigm. So take my responses below in that way."

I was attempting to echo this same sentiment in the first paragraph of my previous response. I obviously do not possess the same comprehensive grasp of my Protestant (now Lutheran) paradigm that you do in regard to the Catholic paradigm, but what I'm trying to do is express the paradigm and why from within itself it disagrees with yours. Our engagement so for has been fruitful in that you have successfully done the same with yours. I only hope to do as well. We can only engage the paradigms with one another in a constructive way if we first clearly communicate them to one another. No, if I was trying to simply refute the Catholic paradigm you would be the wrong person for me to attempt to do so with ;-)

Jamie Stober said...

(continued)

In regard to the assurance, I have turned my attention to your discussion with Nathan on Called to Communion. I see from this that it is very important that we on the Protestant side distinguish presumption from the assurance of faith. If I understand the Catholic concerns correctly, we are engaging in presumption if we seek for something beyond "moral certainty" that we are in the state of grace. The relevant threefold distinction is between moral certainty, the certainty of faith, and metaphysical certainty. Well, we're creatures susceptible to doubt and fear. If one were to think long enough, even if one were the most holy person on earth, it should not be hard to find reasons to doubt that one is repentant for one's sins. Moral certainty does not seem to cut it for many people, but the nature of faith is such that it takes those fears and doubts and says, "Nevertheless, God is true…". I don't think we are ever going to inoculate ourselves fully against those creeping doubts. If we're worried about our repentance or our faith, we should ask God to strengthen it. I think this line of thinking is possibly the cure for the ill. Unrepentant people can deceive themselves, but I don't think they spend much time worrying about this or clinging to Christ in faith. Wouldn't we agree that in light of our creatureliness, faith means living in the robust hope of forgiveness and everlasting life and in repentance in spite of not possessing metaphysical certainty of our salvation? In that sense, then, we need One we can cling to with the certainty of faith.

Faith and repentance are distinct concepts for Protestants, but you can't separate them. Faith depends entirely on the Word of God. Repentance also. The obstinate and unrepentant adulterer or fornicator shows by his way of life and his lack of repentance that he does not really believe God's Word about his sin and that he does not believe what is true about himself through his baptism. No such person should expect assurance of his salvation. If he believes in the Word of God, that is impossible. I would say quite simply from a Protestant perspective such a person does not have living faith. The external Word of God is enough to condemn him and it doesn't take a great deal of reflection on his part to see it.

No, when we speak about not resting our assurance on ourselves but on Christ, this also has reference to the Word. No Protestant worth his salt would say that you never examine yourself or fail to constantly confess and repent for sins. Faith alone, Christ alone is intended to keep people from morbid introspection. The more people keep their eyes to Christ alone, the more they are aware of that for which they must repent. In this way looking outside of ourselves is the best way to see what is inside of us. It is in this way that we distinguish between presumption and assurance. Unreflective and not looking at Christ is presumption. Reflecting on Christ and his Word and repenting is the life of living faith.