Now we move on to Chapter 6: “Infused righteousness.” In the first 4+ pages, Sproul does a fairly credible job in explaining the development of dogma and Trent’s declaration on justification. It is with Sproul’s summary points that we take issue. He says: “However this (Trent’s teaching of justification by faith) is understood, it is clear that Rome does affirm some sort of justification by faith. What Rome affirms, however, differs dramatically from the Reformation view of justification by faith. Most obvious is Rome’s exclusion of the word alone (sola). Martin Luther and the Reformers insisted that justification is by faith alone. Rome affirms that justification is ‘by faith,’ but not ‘by faith alone.’”
As you can see, the word “alone” is crucial to Sproul. Justification must be taught by faith “alone” or you are not a Christian, as we have seen earlier. Again this shows the inconsistent stance of Sproul and the Reformers. First off, in their own language they say: “Protestants . . . insist that while we are saved by faith alone, nevertheless, the faith that saves us is not alone.” So while Sproul is quick to point out that the word alone is missing from Catholic teaching, Evangelicals themselves don’t really believe in faith alone. That is why they feel it necessary to add the rejoinder: “the faith that saves us is not alone.”
Point #2 in this issue is the Catholic Church does not teach “justification by faith alone” because the Bible does not teach justification by faith alone! The word “faith” appears in the New Testament 230 times, the word ‘alone’ 32 times. Paul uses “alone” more than any other New Testament author. Yet Paul never puts “faith” and “alone” together. One has to ask why is that? In only one instance do these two words appear in the same verse. That verse as we’ve seen before, is James 2:24 “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” How is it, then, that they can teach as true, a doctrine that is explicitly denied by the plain reading of the text?
Protestants go to great lengths to disprove what this text says. They perform all sorts of twists and spins to make the verse fit into their belief system. Let’s hear Sproul’s defense: “The apparent conflict between Paul and James on the issue of faith and works has provoked a multitude of theories and attempts at harmonization. G. C. Berkouwer summarizes the options more frequently offered by scholars:
1. James was consciously polemicizing against the teaching of Paul (which assumes that Paul’s Epistle to the Romans was written before the Epistle of James).
2. James polemicized, not against Paul, but against antinomian misconception of Paul’s witness to justification by faith.
3. Paul’s letter to the Romans and the Epistle of James have a different problem in view and are not struggling with each other at all.
We could add a fourth option: James wrote his epistle before Paul wrote Romans, and Paul sought to correct James in his Epistle to the Romans.”
Before we get to Sproul’s interpretation of this passage, let’s think about what we just read. Look again at the “mental gymnastics” that Protestants are forced to go through to make this verse fit their pre-conceived theology. They go as far as to say Paul and James were correcting one another! In the meantime, the Catholic has no difficulty with the verse. They rightly see Paul never used the word “alone,” and James does not say we are saved by works “alone.” Therefore, the Catholic interprets these two passages as two rivers flowing from the same stream, that is, grace. Faith and works are a perfect marriage in the Christian life. They are not the same, yet you need both for your justification. More on this later, but for now, let’s see how Sproul deals with the issue.
“Most commentators favor option 2 or 3, or a combination of the two. That James has little time for antinomianism is plain from the content and tone of his entire epistle. That he is treating a different subject from Paul should also be clear from a careful reading of both epistles.” Sproul goes on, “Calvin then speaks of the paralogism with respect to the word justify: ‘If you would make James consistent with the other Scriptures and with himself, you must give the word justify, as used by him, a different meaning from what is used in Paul’.”
I counter this explanation with a quote from Sungenis: “By adding the words ‘by itself’ in 2:17, James is pointing out that his objection is to a faith that is alone. If James was not interested in objecting to the solitude of faith he could simply have said, “faith, if it has not works, is dead” without the addendum of ‘by itself.’ Whatever one’s conception of faith and works, James is making it clear that the best way to describe the rupture in the relationship is to say that it puts faith into a position of being ‘by itself’ (verse 17) or that faith ‘is alone’ (verse 24). Apparently there is no better way to describe it. It is not called ‘unqualified faith’ or ‘non-justifying faith.’ Apparently James does not want to give the impression that as long as faith is of a sufficient quality then faith by itself can save. Faith and works are two separate entities: one believes, the other acts. Sin (bad work) does not necessarily destroy faith but it does make one ineligible for salvation. By analogy, faith that cannot be used in justification is a ‘dead faith.’ To balance this equation, one must also recognize that Scripture also speaks of ‘dead works.’ Work, by itself, will not produce justification either. Faith and works, though separate entities, must be joined together for salvation to occur. Hence, considering that James has chosen language which specifies not the quantity of faith but the addition or subtraction of works (e.g., 2:14 ‘you can have faith, but not works’; 2:17 ‘faith, by itself’; 2:24 ‘not by faith alone’) one should not understand the question ‘Can faith save him?’ in 2:14 to read ‘Can that kind of faith save him?’, but rather ‘can faith alone save him?’ or ‘Can faith, by itself, save him?’ The answer is an unequivocal no.”
The other teaching we can draw from this passage is that the Protestant concept of works flowing from faith is bogus. We see in James 2:1, “My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” These are ‘brothers,’ fellow believers who ‘hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ This point is also repeated in James 1:2, 1:16, 1:19, and other verses throughout this epistle. In other words, he is writing to those who have accepted Jesus. Why then, if works flows from faith as the sola fide advocates want us to believe, does James need to exhort them to do works? After all, it should come naturally. Only when you see faith and works working together as Sungenis showed us in the paragraph above does this epistle make sense.
Back to Sproul’s analysis: “In 2:18 James continues his argument: “But someone will say, ‘you have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’” Here James speaks of the demonstration or manifestation of faith by works. The believer shows true faith at the human level by visible actions. Scripture reminds us that we ‘know’ the believer by his fruit, but also that we can see only outward appearances. God has the ability to read the heart. It is not necessary for God to observe outward actions to know if true faith is present in the heart. Our works ‘justify’ our claim to faith in the eyes of human beholders. Such ‘justification’ or vindication is not necessary for God.”
“Perhaps this helps account for the different circumstances in Abraham’s life to which Paul and James appeal. James says, ‘Was not Abraham our father justified by his works when he offered Isaac his son on the Altar?’(2:21) The question remains, before whom was Abraham justified and in what sense was Abraham justified? If we say Abraham was justified before God in the theological sense of justify, then we are in serious conflict with Paul. In Romans 4, Paul labors the point that Abraham was not justified by his works (see Rom 4:1-5). Paul declares that Abraham was justified before he performed works. He was justified as soon as he had faith (in Gen 15). Abraham is reckoned or counted as righteous (a forensic declaration) before and without a view to his works.”
Wow! There is so much in these two paragraphs, we almost don’t know where to start. Let’s begin at the end and work our way to the beginning. Sproul says “He was justified as soon as he had faith (in Gen 15),” intimating that this is the first time Abraham had faith. No, not intimating, declaring! We have already shown that Abraham already had faith prior to Genesis 15, according to Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.” This occurred in Genesis 12. This even follows the sola fideist theory; i.e., he received the message, and works flowed from it. The works being that Abraham did, indeed, go out looking for the land promised by God. So what all happened after Genesis 12 and before Genesis 15 when Sproul says it was first time Abraham had faith? First, Genesis 12:5 says “and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan”; 12:7: “So he built there an altar to the LORD”; 12:8: “and there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.”; 13:4: “and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.”; 13:18: “So Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the LORD.”; 14:20: “And Abram gave him (Melchizedek) a tenth of everything.”; 14:22: “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, maker of heaven and earth.” Now who can believe that Abraham did not have faith yet! So there is point #1 proven in the Catholic’s favor.
In the middle of the second paragraph of Sproul’s quote we read “If we say Abraham was justified before God in the theological sense of justify, then we are in serious conflict with Paul.” How else are we to understand Abraham’s justification than in the theological sense? We ask Dr. Sproul who was present with Abraham when he offered his son in Genesis 22? We’ll give you the answer - Isaac and Abraham were the only ones present on Moriah. So is Sproul saying that Abraham was justified before Isaac alone? Sorry, but the words of the text of Genesis 22 will not permit that type of interpretation; “He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me. . . By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” God is speaking. He says “seeing that you have not withheld your only son from me,” and in the last verse, God enriches Abraham with descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves.” And why did God lavish such blessings upon Abraham? “Because you have done this, because you have obeyed my voice.” Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Abraham’s justification here is in the sight of God, not man, and it is because of his works, what he did, that God blesses him. The only serious conflict with Paul is seen by those who believe justification is a once-for-all-event rather than a lifelong commitment.
The other reason that James must be taken in the “theological” sense, is that in context that is the only possible conclusion. James 2:14: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” This statement excludes thinking of this passage as a mere show of faith to human eyes as Sproul says above. The statement “can his faith save him” pertains to his eternal destiny, i.e. God’s approval, not to some sort of human approval. And he needs to show these “works” to attain that approval. As James 2:13 puts it; “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Sproul loses on point 2 as well.
Point #3: Sproul turns to the old standby argument that these works were a “vindication” before men, not justification in the true sense. We have already shown above how that can’t be the case. Now let’s show you from the context of James why it is false. “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” I love the way Sungenis explains it: “That vindication cannot be James’ meaning of the word dikaioo is seen even more clearly by his addition of Rahab to the discussion of justification. As James opens up the review of Rahab, he introduces her account by the phrase ‘In the same way. . .’ By this wording, James is connecting the justification of Abraham to the justification of Rahab and declaring that they are the same. We must conclude, then, that there is no theological difference in the way these two people were justified in the eyes of God. If there were a difference, then either James is misleading us, or God would have two systems of justification, one for the Jews, and one for the Gentiles. The former is impossible: inspired Scripture could never mislead. According to many passages in the New Testament the latter is also impossible: God shows no favoritism between Jew and Gentile, and there is only one name under heaven by which men and women are saved. . . Using Protestant terminology, we cannot say that Rahab was given forensic justification prior to the meeting of the Israelite spies. Rahab was a prostitute who lived an immoral life until she encountered God through the Israelites. Her justification comes on the heels of her acceptance of the God of Israel and his laws, which would necessitate that she immediately repented of her evil ways and decided to live righteously. An active event took place in Rahab’s relationship with God, not a demonstration of a previous justification. Hence, if Rahab is not vindicated but is truly justified during her encounter with the Israelite spies, and since James insists that Abraham was justified ‘in the same way,’ then we can only conclude that both Abraham in Gen 22 and Rahab in Joshua 2 were salvifically justified before God, not vindicated.” So, again, Sproul comes up short.
We want to point out once more the reason Protestants feel the need to come up with these types of arguments is that they refuse to see the Biblical teaching on justification. They continue on the error that says justification is a once-for-all event. To paraphrase the words of St. Francis De Sales: Why do you not rather censure your fancies which will not embrace these teachings, than censure these teachings which have been received for so long a time because they do not jump with your humor.
And speaking of the once-for-all event of justification that Protestants and Evangelicals are so endeared to, one of the fallouts of this teaching is “Eternal Security.” Eternal security means that because your justification is “forensic,” that is, Christ’s righteousness imputed to you exteriorly, your salvation is secured. No one, not even yourself, can wrest it away from you. You are now guaranteed entrance into heaven. This is another teaching of the Reformers that up until that time, was unknown in all Christendom. The Scriptures speak clearly and unequivocally that a Christian can lose his salvation. Let’s take a look at these Scriptures.
As we have shown before, justification is a process; therefore, God continually sends his grace into our hearts and we must continually accept that grace and act upon it. By refusing to act on that grace , we put ourselves in danger of losing our justification, because we have effectively turned our back on God. We see St. Paul speak of this danger in his own time. In writing to Timothy he says “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Paul is speaking of a member of the faith who has disowned it and is worse than an unbeliever. If the unbelievers are destined for eternal punishment, what awaits those who have “disowned the faith” and are “worse than the unbelievers”?
In 1 Tim 4:1 we read “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” These individual’s “departed” from the faith. They were once members, but now no longer. 1 Tim 1:19 says “By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” What does a shipwreck do to a ship but destroy it. In the same way Hymenaeus and Alexander destroyed their faith. As the writer of Hebrews says “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God..”
Again in Matthew "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” This is Jesus speaking about believers, people who had faith. They called him “Lord”, they prophesied in his name, they cast out demons in his name, mighty works, and good works to be sure. But the “Lord said I never knew you”. He didn’t know them because they “neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”.
Now let’s take a look at some other passages that teach one can lose their justification after being ‘initially justified.’ Let’s turn to the famous ‘I am the Vine’ passage out of St. John’s Gospel : "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. John 15:1-10 (RSV)
Jesus is the vine, the source of all our spiritual nourishment. It is only in him that we can be fruitful. Jesus unmistakenly claims that if you do not bear fruit (read: do good works), you will be cast out and thrown into the fire. How can you possibly reconcile that with “eternal security”? Jesus says the dead branches, those who do not bear fruit, are thrown into the fire and burned. Since they are branches, they at one time must have been attached to the tree, which is Christ. But they were thrown into the fire. Notice also verse 10 where Jesus says “IF you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” That’s a big “if” for the eternal security believers to contend with. The statement assumes that if you don’t keep the commandments, then you won’t abide in his love. If you don’t abide in his love, then you’re a reprobate to be cast into the fire.
Passage #2: “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). This comes from the parable of the sower and the seed. Notice what we have here: people who hear the word of God, and accept it with joy. Maybe they made an “altar call.” Yet, even though they “believe(d) for a while”, when temptation came, they FELL AWAY. You see, it is possible to believe then fall away.
Passage #3 : “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful’” ( Luke 12:43-46). Now here is a faithful (full of faith) and wise servant being spoken of. He was even put in charge of the master’s household, placed there by the master himself. But he begins to mistreat his servants and winds up punished and “with the unfaithful”! There is only one place that Scripture teaches the unfaithful go, and it is not heaven.
Passage #4: This is the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:1-22). No need to reprint it here, we all know the story. What is amazing about this story is the prodigal son himself. He was a son, an intimate family member. He ate and drank at the father’s table in the father’s house. He was a member of the family. So what happened? He left, took his ‘inheritance’, and spent it all on dissolute living. Jesus is telling us that we can’t take our inheritance to the kingdom of God, and waste it. The Book of Hebrews says we can’t even neglect it: “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Heb 2:3)!”
As the story goes, the son finally decides to return home. What does the father say? “for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24). Note that the son was DEAD. He was once a member of the family, but was DEAD. Why? Because he took his inheritance and threw it away. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” The moral of the story is: A child of God can fall from His grace (be disgraced), and lose his salvation.
Passage #5 : “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. ( Romans 11:18-22) What a passage! It first speaks of the Jews who were cut off from God’s family because of their unbelief, and then the Christians who were grafted on. Verse 21 is the kicker, For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. How much clearer could St. Paul make it? Verse 22 re-emphasizes what was just stated in verse 21 : Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. Notice, you must “continue in His kindness,” or else you will be cut off from the vine, which is Christ. You see once again this Biblical teaching that you can be a part of God’s family tree, and be cut away from it if don’t hold fast to the faith. In this same book Paul teaches “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations”; “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”; and “For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you.” So in the beginning of this Epistle, as in the middle, and straight through to the end, Paul stresses obedience of faith. He also explains how the disobedient risk the everlasting fire.
“But wait a minute”, the Protestant replies, “those are only ‘false Christians spoken of in these passages, not real believers.” After all Jesus says “All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out”(John 6:37). With this passage the Catholic would wholeheartedly agree. If you come to Jesus, he undoubtedly will never cast you out. But does that mean you can‘t leave on your own? Let’s let a Protestant explain this passage a little better for us: “Throughout this passage an important truth is presented that again might be missed by many English translations. When Jesus describes the one who comes to him and who believes in him (3:16, 5:24, 6:35, 37, 40, 47, etc.), he uses the present tense to describe this coming, believing, or, in other passages, hearing or seeing. The present tense refers to a continuous on-going action. The Greek contrasts this kind of action in time that is not on-going... The wonderful promises provided by Christ are not for those who do not truly and continuously believe. The faith that saves is a living faith, a faith that always looks to Christ as Lord and Savior.(emphasis mine)” This was written by the noted Protestant James White. He says those who truly and continuously come to Jesus are the ones for whom these promises are for. What the Protestant needs to find to prove his position, though, is a passage that says a true Christian will always come to Jesus and never cease coming to him. They won’t be able to find that passage though, because it doesn’t exist.
But, the Protestant objects, Jesus says “ no one shall snatch them out of my hand”, if no one can snatch them out of his hand then you are eternally secure. It’s true that no one can snatch them out of God’s hand. The verse doesn’t say that you can’t walk away turning your back on him. You can leave on your own. God doesn’t force us to do things we don’t want to do; that’s the teaching on free will. God never denies us our freedom, else we wouldn’t be free.
Yes, God’s gift of eternal life is free, but we must accept it, he will not force it on us. Once we’ve accepted the gift, then God expects us to live up to our calling. Once we become a member of the family, there are certain rules that need to be followed. The Sermon on the Mount is a good outline of those rules. Jesus said “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” What if you don’t do what Jesus tells you? This passage implies that you won’t be His friend, and as Jesus said in another passage, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”
Now what do you make of this next selection;
‘What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.’
Jesus says the first son is entering the kingdom because he “did the will of the Father”, but the second son is headed to destruction by saying “yes” and then not following it up. Did you catch that? The second son said, “Yes, I will obey you father,” but then didn’t follow through with his promise. He believed in the father, and even said he would do his will, yet he did not make it to the final reward because he didn’t obey the father.
In his debate with James White, James Akin points out: “As theologian John Jefferson Davis pointed out in his article on the history of the doctrine of perseverance, Luther said that: ‘Many of us fall away from Christ and become false Christians.’ In his commentary on 2 Peter 2:22, he [Luther] writes as follows on apostates in the Church: ‘Through baptism these people threw out unbelief, had their unclean way of life washed away, and entered into a pure life of faith and love. Now they fall away into unbelief and . . . soil themselves again in filth.’ One who has experienced the justifying grace of God through faith can lose that justification through unbelief . . [according to Luther]. ‘Indeed, even the righteous man,’ writes Luther in his comments on Gal 5:4, ‘ . . . loses the righteousness he has and falls from the grace by which he had been justified, since he has been removed from a good land to one that is barren.’ So even Luther preached that one must persevere in grace to enter into the kingdom.
Yes, we undoubtedly must say that the Bible truly teaches that those saved are not “eternally secure.” After all, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” God will indeed provide all with the grace needed to persevere, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reject that grace and, consequently, become rejected ourselves.
Going back to this verse in Romans: “ Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.” St. Paul is making it very clear that there is something that the believer needs to do; that is, stay in God’s kindness. The assumption can then be made that it is possible to fall out of God’s kindness. But also note that the decision is that of the believer. God kindness will always be there, yet our freedom is such that we can choose to turn our backs on the living God. When that happens, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
You can see the mountains of Biblical evidence that shows that “eternal security” is not a teaching of God but of man. As we noted before, “eternal security” was unknown in the church prior to the Reformation; no one taught it. Are we to believe then, that the Holy Spirit waited till Luther’s day to lead His Church to all truth in this area?
From the Scriptures we again turn our thoughts to the Early Church Fathers, and what they had to say on this issue. In his letter to the Ephesians, St Ignatius writes: “Why do we not, as gifted with reason, act wisely? When we had received from Christ, and had grafted in us the faculty of judging concerning God, why do we fall headlong into ignorance? and why, through a careless neglect of acknowledging the gift which we have received, do we foolishly perish?(emphasis mine)” St Ignatius, disciple of St. John the Apostle, believed it possible to “perish” after having first been “grafted” into Christ. This is an obvious contradiction to modern-day “eternal security” advocate. The mere fact that one can lose one’s justification before God, should eliminate the idea of imputed righteousness, because if we can lose our justification, then it is not the righteousness of Christ by which we are judged, but our own righteousness.
Augustine and The Reformers
We would indeed be remiss if we ended this discussion on “Faith Alone” without a comment on Sproul’s remark on page 141: “To avoid the Reformation and Augustinian view of the enslaved free will. . .” This type of statement is common among Reformed theologians. They want to claim St. Augustine for themselves. Therefore they claim Augustine taught exactly the same as the Reformers did with regards to free will and grace. What these theologians don’t understand is that to be canonized a saint in the Catholic Church, one not only needs to live a life of sanctity, but also believe what the Catholic Church believes.
Again, let’s turn to our old friend Sungenis: “Since Calvin purports to be battling the Pelagian Ockham, Biel, and Erasmus that Luther claimed to be debating, there is much overlap between the Reformation theologians and Augustine - an overlap that Reformed theology often transposes into an inseparable kinship between Augustine and Calvin. As we have seen with Luther, however, the problem with comparing Calvin and Augustine is two-fold: (1) Although Augustine’s soteriology was solidified towards the end of his theological career in his anti-Pelagian writings, (many of which were used at the Council of Orange in 529 AD and became the official teaching of the Catholic Church), he never modified his ecclesial or sacramental theology, a theology which Luther radically altered and which Calvin totally obliterated. Thus, there is a strong tendency among Protestant theologians to establish a link with Augustine through grossly selective citation of his voluminous writings. Calvin is no exception. He quotes from Augustine ad nauseam, but usually only those passages which agree with his particular theological bent, especially those dealing with necessity and causality. (2) Although there is much overlap between Calvin’s and Augustine’s anti-Pelagian views, still Augustine did not share many of Calvin’s teachings in this regard. All in all, Augustine had a much more balanced soteriological view than Calvin. For example, though Augustine was strongly predestinarian, he also insisted that man retained free will. Calvin denied free will. Calvin believed that God predestined the fall of Adam, a view that was furthered by Theodore Beza and the Puritans. Neither Augustine, the Council of Orange (529) nor the Council of Valence (855) which followed Augustine’s teaching, ever allowed such an idea. Augustine taught that Adam needed God’s infused grace in order to avoid the temptation of the devil in the Garden of Eden. Calvin speaks of Adam having only external graces or endowments from the created world. Augustine understood justification as a process whereby the Holy Spirit initially and continually infuses grace into the individual thereby transforming him into a righteous person. Calvin taught that justification was external to man and imputed to him, and did not include a moral transformation of the individual. Augustine believed in Purgatory; Calvin did not. Augustine believed in the subjective uncertainty of salvation; Calvin did not. Space does not permit a more detailed elaboration of the extensive differences between these two theologians.”
As you can plainly read for yourselves, Augustine was no Reformer. He was a Catholic through and through. Any attempts made by these theologians to place Augustine with one of their founders is ludicrous. It is another attempt to try to prove their doctrine from the early church when there is no proof. Thus they need to resort to this type of selective “cutting and pasting” if they hope to have a leg to stand on. It goes back to Madrid’s charge of “Hijacking the Fathers.”
No Other Gospel, Part II
In Chapter 9, Sproul closes out his case. Under the title “No Other Gospel,” Dr. Sproul maintains his belief that sola fide is the Biblical teaching of Scripture. He turns to Galatians 1:6-12 to try to give himself, and others, a case. But instead of helping their cause, this verse destroys any hope they might have had. Here is that verse:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
You know, we’ve commented time and again throughout this chapter that there is no evidence whatsoever that the pre-Reformation church taught and/or practiced sola fide. So I ask you, dear reader, how can Sproul use this verse at all since it condemns the Reformers who came in the sixteenth century preaching their “other Gospel”? We’ve seen earlier how the Reformers saw the Catholic Church as teaching truth prior to the sixteenth century, which is why they called them ‘heretics’ and ‘apostates.’ Remember the analogy that Sproul used, the metaphor of the eclipse? He said the truth did once shine in Rome, but it was in the late eclipse stage in Luther’s day. Yet, as we have demonstrated at least in regard to this issue at hand, Rome has been consistent in proclaiming the Gospel since the Ascension of Jesus Christ, and sola fide is nowhere to be found among its teaching. Thus, the ones who came preaching ‘another gospel,’ were the Reformers, not the Catholic Church.
As we close out this chapter, let us review the areas we have covered and the conclusions reached. We first saw how Luther felt about “sola fide,” that it was “the article on which the church stands or falls.” That according to Sproul, justification by faith alone is “essential” to the Gospel, and if you didn’t adhere to the Reformers’ idea of justification by faith alone, you couldn’t even be called Christian. You’ve seen this to be a doctrine so novel in its day that even Protestant scholars have made note of it. As Art Sippo noted in his on-line discussion with James White: “Luther's doctrine was unique and innovative to the point that Alister McGrath in his 2 volume work ‘Iustitia Dei’ admitted that the Reformation doctrine of justification was a ‘theological novum.’ Peter Toon in his historical survey ‘Justification and Sanctification’ states the same thing. This means that for 1500 years the Christian Church taught a different doctrine of salvation than the one Luther espoused.”
We again turn to Justin Martyr of the second century : “And let those who are not found living as He taught, be understood to be no Christians, even though they profess with the lip the precepts of Christ; for not those who make profession, but those who do the works, shall be saved, according to His word: "Not every one who saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. For whosoever heareth Me, and doeth My sayings, heareth Him that sent Me. And many will say unto Me, Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunk in Thy name, and done wonders? And then will I say unto them, Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity. Then shall there be wailing and gnashing of teeth, when the righteous shall shine as the sun, and the wicked are sent into everlasting fire. For many shall come in My name, clothed outwardly in sheep's clothing, but inwardly being ravening wolves. By their works ye shall know them. And every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire." And as to those who are not living pursuant to these His teachings, and are Christians only in name, we demand that all such be punished by you.
After reading this and other quotes from those who have gone before us, how can we possibly say that the Holy Spirit waited 1500 years to reveal the “truth” of justification as taught by the Reformers? Its obvious from the quotes we’ve provided that the early Christians practiced what the Catholic Church practices today. So we ask you dear reader, do you believe that the Holy Spirit faithfully carried out His mission through the Church established by Jesus Christ? That Church, historically speaking, is the Catholic Church.
Now let’s let Professor Hahn close out our discussion on the true Biblical teaching on justification:
Justification, then, understood in the Catholic way, involves both the imputation of legal righteousness as the Protestants believe, but also the infusion of Christ's life and grace as the divine son so that in Christ we become at justification living, breathing sons of God, not just legally but actually. That's what the grace of the Father does for His children. In other words we hold with the Protestants that justification involves a legal decree, a divine word, that we are just, but unlike the Protestants and contrary to their position, we believe that that word of justification goes forth in power. In other words, God does what he declares. In the very act of declaring us just he makes us just because His Word is omnipotent, it's all-powerful. Isaiah 55:11: "So shall my Word go forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose."
We want to stress that in the Catholic tradition that mystical element is emphasized because as 2 Peter, Chapter 1 says, "We are made partakers of the divine nature." We have a real, and not merely legal, share in the very life of the Blessed Trinity. The Trinity becomes our heavenly home; it becomes our present life, we have eternal life through the Holy Spirit here and now. On the basis of that, I would say again this question: Does God's decree of justification do what it decrees, or does it fall short; and why is that James who says "not by faith alone" and Paul who never says "by faith alone,” how do we get from those two passages the doctrine that all Protestants, all Fundamentalists hold, that we're justified by faith alone? Has He only imputed a legal righteousness, or has He also imparted a divine sonship? Has He only decreed me innocent, or has He done what He has decreed by making me a living child of God with the life of the Father living and breathing and moving within me, so that my works are really nothing but my Father's works in and through me?
So the perspective of the Catholic Church is not that of a Roman courtroom, as J. I. Packer insists it should be, and also John Murray and other Protestant theologians. It's that of a Hebrew covenant family in which the judge is a father, and in decreeing judgment and in decreeing righteousness, he's doing what he's decreeing by imparting to us his own life. Not that we cease to be creatures; we'll always be creatures ever dependent upon the Creator and ever distinct from the creator, but the Creator who loves is the Father who fathers us to be His children, and that despite whatever we may have seen or heard from individual Catholics, that is the ancient teaching of the Church, and that is the age-old teaching of the Church.
Do you remember early on in this chapter when Sproul quoted Luther: “On this article the church stands or falls”? So let us close out this chapter with a question for you, dear reader: “Is the Reformers ‘church’ standing or falling?”
Again, space limitations do not permit to comment on every detail that is in error.
Faith Alone, p 122
Roman Catholic and Evangelicals, Agreements and Disagreements, p 239 Baker Books
Faith Alone, p162
Faith Alone, p 163
Ibid., p 163
Robert Sungenis, Not by Faith Alone, p 136, (Santa Barbara, Queenship, 1997) Publishing
Here we see the inconsistency of sola fide. Sola fide teaches that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to you; that is, as Luther taught, ‘outside the man,’ inside you remain a pile of dung, again Luther’s words. Yet here Sproul wants to say that God sees the heart, which He does. But is not the heart inside the man, not outside where Christ is reputed to be imputed?
Faith Alone, p 166
Gen 22:12,17-18 (RSV)
James 2:24-25 (RSV)
Many Protestants will argue that “justify” here in James, the Greek dikaioo, must be taken in the figurative sense. They refer to Luke 7:35 where it reads: “And wisdom is justified by all her children.” The argument goes that dikaioo is used here in the vindictive sense, and not the salvific sense.(excerpted from Not by Faith Alone, p 128)
Not by Faith Alone, p 128-9, Sungenis, Queenship Publishing
The Catholic Controversy, DeSales, Tan Publishers
Martin Luther was an exception here. Luther did indeed teach that one could lose ones justice before God
1 Tim 5:8
This retort really begs the question. There is no evidence in the text that the individuals referred to are “false Christians.” Again it is the Evangelical presuppositions that he brings to the Scriptures that causes him to twist the plain meaning of the text to fit those presuppositions.
Drawn by the Father, a summary of John; James White; Pp 10-11(Excerpted in the debate with James Akin)
Excerpted from the debate “All True Christians are Destined to Persevere.” EWTN on- line services
Here is a sampling of the verses from the New Testament that show one can fall away from the faith: Matt 7:21-23, 10:22, 28, 33, 24:12-13; Mark 9:43, 10:21-23, 13:22; Luke 8:13, 12:43-46; John 12:47-48, 15:6; Acts 13:43-46, 20:29-30; Romans 2:6, 8:12-13, 11:20-22; 1 Cor 3:17, 4:5, 6:8-9, 9:27-10:6, 10:11-12, 15:1-2; 2 Cor 5:20-6:2, 11:3, 12:21-13:5; Galatians 5:19-21, 6:7-9; Ephesians 5:5-6; Phillipians 3:10-16; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Thess 4:1-8; 2 Thess 2:13-15, 3:6,14; Hebrews 2:1, 3:1-6; 3:312-14, 4:1, 4:11-13, 6:4-6, 6:11-12, 10:26-27, 10:35-38, 12:1-3, 12:14-17, 12:25,29; 1 Tim 4:1, 5:15, 6:10-19, 6:20-21; 2 Tim 1:15, 2:12, 2:17, 4:10, 4:16; Titus 1:16, 3:10; James 1:14-16, 1:21-22, 2:13-14, 4:4, 5:9; 1 Peter 4:17-18, 5:8; 2 Peter 1:9, 2:20-22, 3:14-17; 1 John; 2:24-26, 2:28; 2 John 8; 3 John 9-11; Jude 5; Revelation 2:5, 2:10, 2:16, 2:23, 2:26, 3:3, 3:11, 3:16, 3:21, 16:15, 22:12, 22:19. Is that enough evidence??
Not by Faith Alone, p 563-4
"I would refer interested readers to St. Augustine's short work On Free Choice of the Will and his brief reaffirmation of its teaching in his later book "The Retractations." In this treatise St. Augustine demonstrates himself to be THOROUGHLY Catholic in his views. He states first of all that we need an indifferent free will to be SINNERS and that our moral freedom is the source of all evil. He soundly rejects mere spontaneous freedom (which Calvin and Luther embraced) as incompatible with the Scriptures and with human moral responsibility. The reason why St. Augustine condemned this latter view is because if men are not free to make moral choices, then God is the one making those choices for us.” Art Sippo (From on-line discussion between James White and Sippo)
It’s amazing that Evangelicals take this stance. It means you can affirm the Resurrection of Christ, the Deity of Christ, the Atonement, the Final Judgment, the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, et al; yet if you miss it on this one doctrine, even though you’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are not even to be considered a “brother in Christ” (See Irreconcilable Differences, Sproul, MacArthur, and others, 2-tape set)
First Apology Chap 16