Friday, April 17, 2009

*BEST OF DTB #2* Dry water and cold fire. Do Catholics believe we can earn Salvation?

In a word, no.

In fact, those who claim we do think that are making a wholly disingenuous argument based on false dilemma.

That false dilemna is that salvation is either by faith alone or by works alone.

Let's start with that with which all protestants and catholics agree.

1) Man is fallen.

2) Man cannot save himself.

3) Man needs a Savior.

4) Jesus is the only one qualified for the job.

Some Fundamentalists act as if Catholics don't understand who Salvation comes from. Ironic, since they also condemn us for the fact that we supposedly spend to much time commemorating the Crucifixion- the defining act making salvation available to us. True, the Resurrection completes it and codifies it but the Resurrection is of little value to us without the Crucifixion.

Nevertheless, all Christians agree that the availability of Salvation is manifested, to the world, through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. The price has been paid and the money put in the bank account. We call this part of the process Redemption.

Redemption is available to every person on earth. That is, there are sufficient funds in the bank to cover the salvation of every person.

Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Yet,Catholics agree with the Apostles Paul & Peter that we must, in fact, fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ

COL 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,

1PT 4:13 But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.
Are Paul and Peter suggesting insufficiency in the Sanctifying power of Christ's blood? Not at all.
What they are saying is that it is not enough that Christ died for us, if we do not have faith enough to benefit from it by joining in His sacrifice.

When fundamentalists claim that Catholics believe in a weak Jesus whose blood is insufficient to forgive every sin, they are are simply whistling past the grave yard. In fact, that is actually a pretty ridiculous argument. For, if I believed that Christ is not strong enough to save me, by what means could I possibly believe that I could do it?

Yet, there are actually people who have the audacity to suggest that we Catholics think we can out save Jesus because His sacrifice just wasn't good enough. Um. We don't. The sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice to save every single man, woman and child on earth is affirmed by our assent to the doctrine of Redemption. This argument, that we believe in a weak Jesus, is a red herring created by clever liars to detract from what is the real question at hand.

The question of what Jesus is able to do is one on which all Christians can agree. Jesus can do anything with only two exceptions;

1) Sin
2) Contradict Himself, the Father or the Spirit.

The question of Salvation boils down to three essential other questions

1) What is Jesus required to do for us beyond that which He has already done?
2) What is Jesus willing to do for us beyond that which He has already done?
3) What, as a consequence, would be required of us?

The answer to the first question is emphatic. Jesus owes me nothing. If I lived a hundred thousand lifetimes, each a hundred thousand years long, I could not even hope to repay him for what he has already done for me. The very suggestion that I could, then, pay my way in to heaven is too absurd to even discuss. All the gold of all the world of all time wouldn't suffice as a down payment on the reparations of the wounds of even 1 mortal sin I have committed in my life. However, my indebtedness only amplifies the imperitive that I give Him all I can.

On question #2, Jesus has made clear to us that He is willing to make provision for sufficient funds, from the bank of redemption, to be made available to pay off our debt. This is where the first disagreement arises. Catholics would agree with all Protestants that this debt payment is not earned from us or deserved by us. We are totally dependent on the debt payer who earned the wages himself and is under no obligation to make them available to us.

The money that is used to settle this debt is called Grace. In fact, Catholics call this particular type of Grace- Sanctifying Grace because that's what it does.

ACTS 15:11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they

ROM 3:24 They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus,

ROM 5:2 through whom we have gained access (by faith) to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

ROM 5:17 For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.

Where we divert is that some protestants (Calvinists in particular), believe that the debt payer, rather than providing for the payment of our debt, assumes all our debts (past, present and future) as His own! This is the heretical doctrine of Salvation by imputation. Like any other false, man-made doctrine, Salvation by imputation is not without clever arguments supporting it based on Scriptures twisted and turned just the right way. Just so, it fails to withstand serious muster, as do all heresies.

Following imputation theology through to it's logical end shows that it is completely untenable in a number of respects. Let's examine one.

Imputation theology fails to deal with sin. Thus, it makes it Biblically heretical. All the way back to Cain, God tells us of the struggle against sin.

Genesis 4:7

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

All through out the Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testament, Sin is shown in terms of an obstacle you must overcome. God will help you. He will forgive your sin and help you to grow stronger against it, if you are willing to try, but He will not paint over your sin and pretend it isn't there. He will not fail to punish you if you do not fight your sin.

PHIL 2:12 So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Matthew 10:38 and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

Luke 3:9 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Galatians 6

6:7 Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows,6:8 because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit.6:9 Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.

James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

Imputation theology mocks God's justice by putting God in a position of no longer punishing your sins or forgiving them. He simply pretends they are not there.

1 Thessalonians 4:6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.

Three things must be made crystal clear.
1) Sin cannot stand. God will not abide sin. Every single sin must be forgiven or punished.
2) Forgiveness of sin is impossible without sincere repentance. Repentance means to
turn away. You cannot be forgiven of your sins unless you forsake them!
3) To sin, with the expectation that your sins will be forgiven or-worse yet- that they have already have been forgiven, is to only add the sin of presumption to your previous sins.

As the Apostle Paul admonishes us; Be not deceived. God is not mocked.

So, imputation, as a theory is wrong and this creates the great quandary that is very much the division between many branches of Protestantism and the one faith of Catholicism. It is set up by false dilemmas that are at the very heart of question #3

What does the free gift of Salvation require of us?

Many protestants contend that it requires nothing of us for two reasons;
1) It cannot be a free gift if anything is required in return.
2) There cannot be anything required of us because the debt is too large and we cannot pay it.

Therefore, God must pay it in full for us or it cannot be paid.

Let's tackle the first one.

Romans 4

1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." a

4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousnessb. 6David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from worksc: 7"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

a This is a perfect example of how context provides the answer. I actually like it when fundamentalists cite this scripture because it ends up proving the Catholic case! What does it mean "Abraham believed God?" Does it mean he jumped up and said "I believe, I believe!" Does it mean he danced in the isles and sang songs about how much faith he had? No, it means that Abraham trusted in God even when it did not seem to make earthy sense to do so.
The fundamentalists contention, that all Abraham had to do was state his belief, only works to persuade those who are completely ignorant of Scripture. We can see, plainly, from scripture that just the opposite is true. Abraham was saved because of His faith but that faith could only be manifested- proven- by his works. His works saved him.
James 2
2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?2:22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.2:23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called "the friend of God."2:24 See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Is James refuting Paul? No! James is explaining Paul's position. Whereas Redemption is that money in the bank that Jesus deposited to pay the debt, Justification is the point at which the person's debt is paid in full. That is, the person has become Justified before God.
b Imputational fundamentalists insist that man can never become justified before God. They insist that Jesus covers our unrighteousness with His righteousness the way a blood stain is covered by a coat of paint. In essence, the consequence of their theology is that your sin still exists but you get into heaven by hiding behind Jesus so God cannot see it.
Yet, in the very verse cited, we are told that man can be justified.
"man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked"
There are more examples;
Luke 18:14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
ACTS 13:39 in him every believer is justified.
Romans 2:13 For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified.
Romans 5:9 How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.
James 2:25 And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?
Before we can debate how a man is justified, we must, at a minimum, believe that he is. Imputation theology is finished. It is simply unworkable as an explanation of salvation. Any honest rendering of scripture contends that man- himself- undergoes a change from spiritual death to life, justifying him in the site of God. In other words, mans sin is not simply covered, it is removed.
Romans 6:4

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Ephesians 2:1
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
Ephesians 2:5
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Colossians 2:13

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

Many protestants correctly reject the doctrine of imputation and accept that God's Grace does in fact wash away our sins and make us holy enough to be Justified. This actual cleansing of the soul and removal of sin is what is called Sanctification.
Redemption provides the money, Sanctification is the payment(s) and Justification is the result. All of it comes from the beneficence of a Holy and indescribably merciful God.
Yet, let's not forget that He is also a Just God and a Sovereign God. For man to be Justified, Justice must be satisfied. Justification literally means the satisfaction of Justice. The abscence of debt or guilt.
 /ˈdʒʌstəˌfaɪ/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [juhs-tuh-fahy] Show IPA verb, -fied, -fy⋅ing.
–verb (used with object)
1. to show (an act, claim, statement, etc.) to be just or right: The end does not always justify the means.
2. to defend or uphold as warranted or well-grounded: Don't try to justify his rudeness.
3. Theology. to declare innocent or guiltless; absolve; acquit.4.Printing.
a. to make (a line of type) a desired length by spacing the words and letters, esp. so that full lines in a column have even margins both on the left and on the right.
b. to level and square (a strike).
Protestants who reject imputationalism and Catholics, agree that man is redeemed by Christ's sacrifice, Sanctified by His Grace and Justified by that Sanctification. Further, we agree that this occurs only because of faith and not by the merit of man nor by the works of the law. The only things in question are how the process takes place and what man must do for it to happen.
People of good will have been confused on this question for 500 years because the disobedience of Luther and the other reformers sowed that confusion. The reformers argued that Redemption, Sanctification and Jusification all occur at once and they provide Scripture that the uninformed could misinterpret to support that contention.
Romans 3:24
and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:30
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Many protestants who are not imputationalists, nevertheless, reject the idea that man is able to do anything to contribute to his own salvation. They cite, for example, the same words of Paul from above.
b 4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness c 6David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
In reading this, It would be easy to misunderstand Paul as saying that our Justification before God has nothing to do with works- that it was by faith alone. Easy that is, if James did not directly contradict that notion.
James 2
8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,

13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.
16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"
and he was called God's friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

Is James contradicting Paul? No! He is explaining the very same doctrine that Paul taught. There are two sides to it and Paul emphasized the first, while James emphasized the second.
1) Those who carried out the works of the Mosaic law (John 1:17), without faith, cannot be saved. The works of the law, under the Old Covenant were nothing less than a symbolic participation in Christ's redemptive work. When people practiced the law, for it's own sake, they were condemned. Not one person can be saved by the law.
Paul is exorting us that Jesus is the one who saves even those who were saved through the Mosaic law because they were not saved by the Mosaic law. In fact, not one single person was saved BY the Mosaic law. All were saved by Jesus.

Acts 13:39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.
Salvation passed from and through Jesus, through the Mosaic law, to the believer. The Mosaic law was but a conduit through time by which Old Testament believers could participate in New Testament salvation. When Jesus arrived, that conduit was no longer needed and the veil in the temple was torn in two, shortly before the temple itself was razed by the Romans.
2) James, on the other hand, is giving us the other side of the equation. The law of Moses is one thing, the law of God is another! Do not presume that the law of God will ever pass away.
Matthew 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
The same Scriptures that tell us that works without faith are dead tell us that faith without works is dead. The same scriptures that tell us that faith operates apart from works, tell us that faith is completed through works. You must demonstrate both or you, in fact, have neither.
We are not under the (Mosaic) law, we are under grace. Grace cleanses us, strengthens us, waters us and enables us to bring forth good fruit. Earning salvation? Don't be silly. Our works don't earn us salvation any more than the works of the Mosaic law earned Salvation.
Nevertheless, works are required for salvation. For the God who said "Thou shalt not kill" etc...'', meant it.
So, then. The question from some fundamentalists becomes ''how much work?'', ''what work?'', as if we can quantify it. If one attempts to quantify the work, they focus on the work for it's own sake and error just as the Pharisees did.
Ours is to do what we are told to do and leave the results to God. The results are not what save but the exercise of faith practiced. The exercise of works is not a contradiction of faith but the very manifestation of faith. Some protestants contend that good works are a by product of faith. Seperating works from faith is like seperating the water from the wet or the heat from the fire. You can have wet without water but you cannot have water without wet. You can have heat without fire but you cannot have fire without heat. Salvation is by faith. We do what we are told to prove we have faith.
You can say you have faith all you want but if your soul is dry and cold, your words don't mean much.

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