Thursday, January 13, 2005

Oh really, Jason?

Replying to the exchange here:

"It's inconclusive, since Clement is addressing a category that includes a variety of subjects."

Then presumptively, one wouldn't think that a particular subject was being excluded, particularly when the context doesn't suggest it.

"No, there's no contradiction between saying on the one hand that Abraham was blessed through works and saying on the other hand that he was justified apart from works. You're assuming that there would be a contradiction where there actually wouldn't be one."

I'm not assuming anything. Clement himself draws the analogy between Abraham's blessings and the justification of the Christian. He says "All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves...." If Abraham's blessings came from works, and the justification of the Christian did not, then this analogy would break down.

"If he only mentions faith, why should we think that he meant to include works as well?...I'm arguing that Clement only mentions faith because only faith receives justification. That makes sense."

Why should we think that he didn't, particularly when we have good contextual evidence for thinking that he did?

"You used the word "contrasting"....So, I ask again, since Clement repeatedly refers to works of holiness in a positive sense, why should we think that something deficient is being referred to when he refers to works of holiness in chapter 32?"

Fair enough on the misunderstanding, but the point was that the categories are *different* (one meaning of contrasting), not that they are *opposed* to one another (another meaning). And since when does something being positive mean that it can't be deficient for a particular purpose?

"You can't be pure-hearted without faith. What you're trying to do is make works of holiness seem deficient.......I'm arguing that works of holiness are good works. That makes sense."

Sure you can. Non-Christians do plenty of things that aren't sinful and aren't done for sinful motives. I don't say that their actions of charity, for example, are deficient in the sense of not being good.

"Then you have to argue that Clement meant to include other types of works as a means of attaining justification, even though he only mentioned faith. Your interpretation is much more unnatural than mine."

Self-contradictions aren't natural. Transitions back and forth on particular subjects aren't natural. Assuming that something appearing in a class being described doesn't fall within the description (e.g., eternal life not being a reward for works) is not natural. You don't have anything like a natural reading, much less one that is more natural than mine.

"And I'm arguing that Clement refers to people always being justified in the same way because we are justified through faith, just like Abraham, without baptism or any other later works being added. That also makes sense."

Well, given that it certainly appears that he is arguing that Abraham was justified by faithful obedience, then I'd say we're justified just like Abraham too.

"No, Mathetes refers to Christ's *righteousness* being substitutionary as well. He refers to an "exchange" and a righteousness that "covers" sin and Jesus' righteousness justifying His people."

So does everyone who talks about substitutionary atonement. Reading imputed justification in here is simply anachronism.

"I'm giving examples of church fathers I agree with on this subject, so it makes no sense to claim that I view the fathers collectively as "morons". Even as far as the fathers I disagree with are concerned, I don't claim that they're "morons". If you disagree with the premillennialism of Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, etc., should I accuse you of thinking that they're 'morons'?"

If I accused them of failing to take note of the clear teaching of Scripture on the subject, then you certainly could. Modern-day Evangelics get around this by assuming an irrational and self-protecting worldview and working from the assumptions of that worldview, so it's not being "morons" so much as being uncritical of their assumptions.

"If you think that my interpretation of Paul is wrong, then explain why."

Not the point of the exchange, but suffice it to say that I think that the contrast between kinds of works in St. Paul is works of the law (human effort) and the obedience of faith (Christ working through us), which is exactly the opposition between Old and New covenants. In this context, when Paul just says "works," the connotation is not "any and all human action." Obviously, this is a central theme in his writing, since he is the Apostle to the Gentiles who are now being included within God's people.

"I agree that trying to explain why we think a historical source erred on a matter is helpful, but it isn't *necessary*. For example, scholars speculate about how Irenaeus (or his sources) could have been wrong about the age of Jesus, but nobody can claim to know for sure why he was wrong. We don't have to know *why* he was wrong in order to know *that* he was wrong. Similarly, people who reject premillennialism wouldn't have to know for certain why Papias, Justin Martyr, and other early fathers (or their sources) accepted the doctrine in order to reject it. If scripture is silent or unclear on a matter, such as where Peter died, then the church fathers can clarify it for us. Thus, I conclude that Peter died in Rome. But the more explicitly scripture discusses a subject, the less we would need later sources (the church fathers or other sources) to inform us or clarify the issue for us. Since justification is a subject discussed frequently and explicitly in scripture, there isn't as much of a place for patristic clarification on that subject as there is for others."

This may literally be the most illogical thing I have seen generated by a Protestant's keyboard. You have stated the burden of proof exactly backward. If a subject is discussed more explicitly in Scripture, then it stands to reason that there would be substantially fewer mistakes among the people familiar with it. Historically speaking, widespread contradiction of a doctrine that you believe to be taught clearly in Scripture is where you have the HIGHEST explanatory burden, and you are arguing that it is LOWEST. It is *absolutely* necessary for you to explain these cases; that is practically the definition of your burden in making a historical case for your position. Explaining why there might have been eschatological differences on material that was only questionably Scriptural (i.e., the Apocalypse of John) written in highly metaphorical language and dealing with prophecy is almost trivial; it's obviously an area where the meaning isn't going to be obvious. Explaining why Christians unanimously believe something that is specifically and clearly anathematized in Scripture is another thing entirely.

"Since justification is a subject discussed frequently and explicitly in scripture, there isn't as much of a place for patristic clarification on that subject as there is for others."

You may not have to explain error in every case, but when you say that something is discussed "frequently" and "explicitly," you are clearly taking on the historical burden to explain why the belief was almost-universally if not universally contradicted among the church fathers. And don't give me some nonsense about "human tendencies toward legalism."

"How do I think the fathers who erred on matters related to justification did so? Surely the answer would vary from case to case. And some of the answers may not be available to us. But I think we can put forward some reasonable possibilities. "

I'd love to see them, because the following sure don't work:

"With something like Hermas' doctrine of limited repentance, I imagine that there was an overreaction to sin in the church. Limiting the number of times a Christian could repent probably seemed like an effective means of limiting sin. "

But if he believes in limited repentance, he must also believe that salvation can be lost by a Christian. Odd that he would think that if sola fide is taught frequency and explicitly in Scripture.

"Or why did some fathers believe in universalism? Probably for many of the same reasons people do today (disliking the doctrine of an eternal Hell, concern for individuals we know who seem to have died as an unbeliever, etc.) or other philosophical reasons."

Yes, and those "other philosophical reasons" include Scriptural beliefs in the Incarnation and redemption, which are, incidentally, entirely inconsistent with sola fide. I wonder where they got those?

"Why did Cyprian reject heretical baptism?"

Because the question isn't answered in Scripture as far as I can tell. Principles from elsewhere had to be applied by the judgment of the Church to answer the question. See, Catholic theology recognizes that there are problems that are definitively resolved through the life of the Church even though there were a multiplicity of views on the subject. This is because some topics are theologically difficult, which means that people won't perceive the full implications of each and every piece of revelation (and sometimes, there simply was no sure way to tell which belief was correct until the Church resolved it). That's why some beliefs are not "allowed" any more, even though they were before; the wheat of tradition is separated from the chaff, preserving the good and discarding the bad. That would be "development."

"Why did Ambrose believe that original sin is remitted through foot washing?"

First, the doctrine of original sin wasn't even entirely formulated in Ambrose's day. Second, the rite was a traditional part of the liturgy, and it wouldn't be at all unusual to speculate that it had sacramental effect before the Church formally identified the Sacraments. Third, this practice was incorporated with anointing of the sick, which does forgive venial sins, so it's not even entirely erroneous. None of these things are obvious at first glance; they involve careful discernment of Scripture and tradition and resolution by the Church.

"Sometimes the fathers themselves give us an explanation, and sometimes they don't."

Well, you had darn sure better come up with one.

" I think one of the factors involved is the general human tendency toward trying to attain favor from God through good behavior, even when God is offering something as a free gift."

To the point of universally believing something clearly anathematized by Scripture? Besides, that's not a historical explanation unless you can show specifically how this theme is incorporated in their reasoning. Otherwise, it's simply amorphous pontificating.

"I also think that J.P. Holding is likely correct about one of the other factors involved:"

You mean this?

"Thus, what we would consider separate actions of conversion, confession, and obedience in the form of works would be considered by the Hebrews to be an act in totality."

I love that. This statement is entirely correct, but then it would be entirely unwarranted to posit that "faith" refers to "faith alone" and not the "act [of faith] in totality," which is exactly what Catholics have been saying all along. A great argument thatworks nicely with my point on St. Paul above.

"But I don't maintain that the fathers were all wrong all the time on justification, much less do I consider them 'morons'. As I've said repeatedly, I think some of them were right about justification, and I think that even some of the ones who were wrong in general also were right at times. And on issues other than justification, I agree with them the large majority of the time (monotheism, the historicity of the Bible, the inspiration of the Bible, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, etc.). I certainly don't consider them 'morons'."

What other explanation could there be for them missing something that is "frequently" and "explicitly" taught in Scripture, to the point of their view being explicitly anathematized? Other than being such ignorant blockheads that they didn't realize their view was being anathematized despite the counter-doctrine being taught all over Scripture, what could possibly be the explanation?

11 Comments:

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for the invitation to your blog. As I said at reformedcatholicism.com, I don't have much time to work with. I have even less time to go to yet another web site (your blog) and carry on lengthy discussions. I don't know how long I'll be here.

You said:

"Then presumptively, one wouldn't think that a particular subject was being excluded, particularly when the context doesn't suggest it."

The entire *category* of subjects in First Clement 35 is attained through faith and works, but eternal life is attained only through faith. If something is true of a category in general, it isn't necessarily true of every item within the category. I don't deny that your interpretation is possible. What I'm saying is that my interpretation is possible as well. The disagreement would have to be settled by other passages in Clement, since the one you're citing is inconclusive.

"If Abraham's blessings came from works, and the justification of the Christian did not, then this analogy would break down."

Yes, Clement is making a comparison to Abraham, but he specifies that the comparison is on the subject of justification. You can't assume that Christians attain justification the same way Abraham attained other blessings just because a comparison is being made to how Abraham was justified.

"Why should we think that he [Clement] didn't, particularly when we have good contextual evidence for thinking that he did?"

I don't deny that Clement mentions works in other passages. But we're discussing his comments on attaining justification in chapter 32. He only mentions faith. If he meant faith *and* works, he could have said so, just as he did in chapter 31. He doesn't. He only mentions faith.

"And since when does something being positive mean that it can't be deficient for a particular purpose?"

As I documented in an earlier reply, Clement repeatedly refers to works of holiness. Where else are those works deficient? I think your assumption that deficient works are in view is less natural.

In summary, you're not only assuming that "works wrought in holiness of heart" are deficient works, but you're also assuming that "faith" is a reference to faith and works. I think that the first assumption is less likely than my interpretation, but possible. Your second assumption, however, is untenable. If Clement meant to include works, then he could have mentioned them along with faith, just as he did in chapter 31.

Clement goes on, in chapter 33, to ask "What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love?" If he had just told people that they can attain justification through good works, why would he go on to tell them that they shouldn't refrain from doing good works? My interpretation of chapter 32 makes more sense of the question that opens chapter 33.

"So does everyone who talks about substitutionary atonement."

No, people can accept substitutionary atonement without thinking that Christ's righteousness justifies His people. Mathetes repeatedly parallels us giving our sins to Christ with Christ giving His righteousness to us. To assume that one is imputed while the other is infused is a less natural way of reading the text. The theme of the passage is trusting in God's kindness in what Christ has done as our Substitute. To read into such a passage a concept of Christ suffering for us so that we can attain justification through a lifetime of grace-empowered works is highly unnatural. Our works, whether works done with or without God's help, aren't in view.

"I think that the contrast between kinds of works in St. Paul is works of the law (human effort) and the obedience of faith (Christ working through us), which is exactly the opposition between Old and New covenants."

Where does Paul say that he's only excluding works of human effort? He doesn't. God can help people do works of the Mosaic law. Are you suggesting that God didn't help anybody do good works under the old covenant? As I said earlier, Paul does sometimes mention the Mosaic law, but he also says that all other types of work are excluded (Romans 3:27, Galatians 3:21-25). Thus, Paul considered it normative to receive the Holy Spirit at the time of faith (Acts 19:2, Galatians 3:2-9, Ephesians 1:13-14), not at the time of water baptism. And he cites Genesis 15:6 as an illustration. All Abraham does in that passage is believe (sola fide).

"If a subject is discussed more explicitly in Scripture, then it stands to reason that there would be substantially fewer mistakes among the people familiar with it."

So, we have to consult later sources in order to know whether earlier sources are clear? No, if the earlier sources are clear, we can know that without going to documents written 200 or 500 years later. The Old Testament is clear in condemning idolatry, yet the Jewish people repeatedly fell into idolatry. Even some of Israel's best kings allowed the high places to remain, and I've given you the examples of 2 Kings 22:8-13 and Nehemiah 8:13-17 before. No, I'm not saying that we can assume that something like 2 Kings 22 and Nehemiah 8 has occurred without having any evidence to that effect. But I am saying that we know that a scenario such as we see in 2 Kings 22 or Nehemiah 8 not only *can* happen, but in fact *has* happened in the past.

"Historically speaking, widespread contradiction of a doctrine that you believe to be taught clearly in Scripture is where you have the HIGHEST explanatory burden, and you are arguing that it is LOWEST."

No, I didn't deny that more clarity should produce more agreement among interpreters. What I denied is that disagreement among interpreters *by itself* is enough to conclude that something is absent or unclear in the source being interpreted. The ancient Israelis were given clear commands against idolatry, yet there was widespread idolatry among them. The fact that something is taught clearly in scripture doesn't eliminate human fallibility and sinfulness. A person such as David, Solomon, or Asa can have many godly attributes, yet sometimes sin and misunderstand God and be misled by many influences in society, in his personal background, etc. In another part of your post, you said:

"Modern-day Evangelics get around this by assuming an irrational and self-protecting worldview and working from the assumptions of that worldview, so it's not being 'morons' so much as being uncritical of their assumptions."

Why couldn't I make a similar assessment of some of the church fathers? Couldn't I argue that they sometimes made false assumptions, had a false view of salvation, etc. without thereby accusing them of being "moronic"?

"Explaining why there might have been eschatological differences on material that was only questionably Scriptural (i.e., the Apocalypse of John) written in highly metaphorical language and dealing with prophecy is almost trivial; it's obviously an area where the meaning isn't going to be obvious."

The fathers I cited didn't base their views only on the book of Revelation. Papias claims to be going by apostolic tradition he received from the apostles and their contemporaries. And Justin Martyr and Irenaeus cite more than the book of Revelation.

"Explaining why Christians unanimously believe something that is specifically and clearly anathematized in Scripture is another thing entirely."

I reject your claim of unanimity. Your argument is dependent on the assumption that I've misinterpreted all of the patristic evidence I've cited. Obviously, I don't accept that assumption.

Do you think Jesus was wrong to criticize people for not understanding the Messianic prophecies (Luke 24:25-26)? After all, not many people understood them the way Jesus did, so His interpretations couldn't have been clear, right? What about the many views of Jesus that existed early on (Jesus as a prophet, Jesus as the Messiah, the Gnostic view of Jesus, Porphyry's view that he was a divine man, etc.)? Do you conclude that Jesus' identity must therefore have been unclear? Paul says in Romans 1 that the existence and attributes of God are clear, leaving people without excuse. Why, then, do billions of people deny or not acknowledge those attributes of God? The First Vatican Council says that the papacy is a clear doctrine of scripture. Why, then, do none of the earliest patristic sources mention the doctrine and why do hundreds of millions of professing Christians deny that the papacy is Biblical? The fact that many people deny something doesn't prove that it's not clear.

"And don't give me some nonsense about 'human tendencies toward legalism.'"

You can call it "nonsense" if you want, but it's a reality, and it's a reality that Paul had to address repeatedly. To assume that it wouldn't be much of an issue in later generations is what's "nonsense".

"This statement is entirely correct, but then it would be entirely unwarranted to posit that 'faith' refers to 'faith alone' and not the 'act [of faith] in totality,' which is exactly what Catholics have been saying all along."

If you would read J.P. Holding in context, you wouldn't misrepresent him. The fact that faith and works are seen as connected doesn't mean that they can't be distinguished. They *are* distinguished in the New Testament, as Holding shows.

Jason Engwer
http://members.aol.com/jasonte
New Testament Research Ministries
http://www.ntrmin.org

 
At 9:45 PM, Blogger SecretAgentMan said...

I don't want to interrupt the flow of your discussion, but I did want to congratulate you on the letter to Newsweek. Well done, sir.

 
At 12:47 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

"Thanks for the invitation to your blog."

Thank you for coming. I appreciate you taking some of your limited time to participate in the dialogue.

"The entire *category* of subjects in First Clement 35 is attained through faith and works, but eternal life is attained only through faith. If something is true of a category in general, it isn't necessarily true of every item within the category. I don't deny that your interpretation is possible. What I'm saying is that my interpretation is possible as well. The disagreement would have to be settled by other passages in Clement, since the one you're citing is inconclusive."

Clement hadn't titled the chapter, "Immense is This Reward. How Shall We Obtain It?" right after a chapter titled "Great is the Reward of Good Works," then there might be some possible argument for saying that the classification was inconclusive. But given that the titles are what they are, your interpretation is literally impossible (and notice that the discussion begins with Ch. 32 "Let Us See by What Means We May Obtain the Divine Blessing"). It would be contrary to every syntactical consideration to expect that someone would lead off a discussion of how to obtain the reward due to good works with something that cannot be obtained through good works. Clement's words simply don't allow for the listed category to be things "attained through faith and works;" they necessarily must fall into the category of things earned by good works particularly. It is therefore absolutely, unambiguously, irrefutably the case that he is stating that eternal life is a reward of good works.

"Yes, Clement is making a comparison to Abraham, but he specifies that the comparison is on the subject of justification. You can't assume that Christians attain justification the same way Abraham attained other blessings just because a comparison is being made to how Abraham was justified."

Not true. The analogical comparison is between the way in which the blessings were received. Clement says, "All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart." The conclusion of the comparison is that both are received through the operation of God's Will and not by works. So the only question remaining is what Clement means by "not by works."

I can prove by contradiction that your interpretation of what Clement means by "not by works" is false. Clement says, "All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or *for their own works*, or for *the righteousness which they wrought*, but through the operation of His will," which I will refer to as proposition (A). Clement speaks in Ch. 31 of Abraham earning the blessing "because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith," and Isaac because "cheerfully yielded himself as a sacrifice," and Jacob because he "went forth with humility from his own land, and came to Laban and served him." Thus, Clement clearly says that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did earn their respective blessing by action, which I will call proposition (B). Suppose, then, that we adopt your interpretation:
(1) Assume that Clement means "not by any human action at all" when he says "not by works/righteousness."
(2) If (1), then by (A), none of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob earned their blessings by any human action.
(3) (2) and (B) cannot both be true. (B) is definitely true, making (2) false.
(4) But if (2) is false and (A) is definitely true, then (1) must be false.
(5) Therefore, (1) is false.

"I don't deny that Clement mentions works in other passages. But we're discussing his comments on attaining justification in chapter 32. He only mentions faith. If he meant faith *and* works, he could have said so, just as he did in chapter 31. He doesn't. He only mentions faith."

I'm glad to see you admit (B), but that hardly helps your case. Your argument here depends on faith and works being non-overlapping sets, but that requires (1), which we know is false. Thus, the fact that Clement doesn't mention works doesn't mean that he intends to exclude works that are part of faith.

"As I documented in an earlier reply, Clement repeatedly refers to works of holiness. Where else are those works deficient? I think your assumption that deficient works are in view is less natural."

Again, deficient for the particular purpose being described doesn't mean "bad." For example, you are arguing that not only works of holiness but all works are deficient for the purpose of justification. Does that mean that you consider all works evil? The idea that deficiency for a particular purpose means "bad" is illogical.

Turning then to what Clement is saying, holiness of heart is not sufficient to make a work a work of faith. It just occurred to me that you might be reading Clement to say that works of holiness CANNOT be works of faith, and I certainly don't agree with that interpretation, nor am I saying anything of the kind. Clement's point is merely that holiness of heart is not the same thing as faith, and a work wrought in holiness of heart is not justifying unless it is also righteousness "wrought ... in faith."

"In summary, you're not only assuming that 'works wrought in holiness of heart' are deficient works, but you're also assuming that "faith" is a reference to faith and works."

With the caveat, "deficient for the purpose of justifying" I agree with the first. With respect to the second, that's an inaccurate statement. My position is that the meaning of the term "through faith" as defined by Clement *includes* works. That's not the same thing as saying that I think that there is something outside of the definition that needs to be inferred.

"I think that the first assumption is less likely than my interpretation, but possible."

"Likely" is a matter of context as well. Based on the argument above, my understanding is more than likely, and yours is impossible.

"Your second assumption, however, is untenable. If Clement meant to include works, then he could have mentioned them along with faith, just as he did in chapter 31."

You've simply assumed that the definition of faith excludes works, which I proved by contradiction to be false. Thus, your conclusion that my position is untenable is based on a false assumption, and therefore, unwarranted.

"Clement goes on, in chapter 33, to ask 'What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love?' If he had just told people that they can attain justification through good works, why would he go on to tell them that they shouldn't refrain from doing good works?"

Probably because he thinks that his statement that we are not justified through our OWN works will be misinterpreted as saying that we are not justified by ANY works (viz., sola fide). In that respect, he seems almost prophetic.

"My interpretation of chapter 32 makes more sense of the question that opens chapter 33."

It should, considering he was writing it against your interpretation!

"No, people can accept substitutionary atonement without thinking that Christ's righteousness justifies His people. Mathetes repeatedly parallels us giving our sins to Christ with Christ giving His righteousness to us."

Maybe there's some odd religion out there about which I don't know, but speaking for the Catholic view of substitutionary atonement (not to mention the Eastern Orthodox view), we believe exactly that. I was simply assuming that we were talking primarily about those beliefs, so I did not even mention that possibility, but you are correct that somebody might believe otherwise.

"To assume that one is imputed while the other is infused is a less natural way of reading the text."

You mean when Mathetes say, "O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!" That the believer exchanges sin for righteousness through the sacrifice of the Cross is hardly news. But Mathetes is hardly describing imputation here: real sin is *actually* taken away; real righteousness is *actually* given. "Imputed justification" would make what Mathetes calls a real exchange merely nominal.

"The theme of the passage is trusting in God's kindness in what Christ has done as our Substitute."

Yep. That's what Catholic or Orthodox Christians, the heirs of Mathetes' tradition, believe as well.

"To read into such a passage a concept of Christ suffering for us so that we can attain justification through a lifetime of grace-empowered works is highly unnatural. Our works, whether works done with or without God's help, aren't in view."

No, what is highly unnatural is to think that Mathetes is speaking of a nominal union in which righteousness is not really infused into a person. The method by which the righteousness of Christ is applied to the believer was well known at the time. What is unnatural is thinking that was sola fide.

"Where does Paul say that he's only excluding works of human effort? He doesn't."

Why would he need to do so if he thought it would be obvious in the context of the discussion? Maybe he wasn't expecting for someone who believed in "verbal inerrancy" to go back and to ascribe inordinate and entirely unintended significance to every single word he decided to use, as if he were the Holy Spirit's secretary.

"God can help people do works of the Mosaic law. Are you suggesting that God didn't help anybody do good works under the old covenant?"

No. In fact, people then were justified by grace through faith working in charity then as well. The Mosaic Law was never intended to justify, but people were justified through their faithful actions.

"As I said earlier, Paul does sometimes mention the Mosaic law, but he also says that all other types of work are excluded (Romans 3:27, Galatians 3:21-25)."

Obviously, I've heard the Reformed interpretation before. I think it's wrong. I don't think he means "all other types of work" any more than Clement meant "all works." And if you're wrong about Clement, I don't know why you couldn't be wrong about Paul as well. The "New" Perspective gives me hope that Reformed Christianity might actually get them back to what has been the "old" perspective from Paul's time until the Reformation.

"Thus, Paul considered it normative to receive the Holy Spirit at the time of faith (Acts 19:2, Galatians 3:2-9, Ephesians 1:13-14), not at the time of water baptism."

Hey, we're not the ones who committed the error of thinking that there is only one way to receive the Holy Spirit (through regeneration). For Catholics, it doesn't surprise us in the least to see the Holy Spirit come upon a person before baptism; for non-infants, that's pretty much the only way it can happen.

"And he cites Genesis 15:6 as an illustration. All Abraham does in that passage is believe (sola fide)."

Sure, and I imagine that there are deathbed conversions in the last instant of
life in which a person doesn't do anything. The thief on the cross didn't do anything other than profess his faith. Sola fide happens in some exceptional situations, but the normative mode for justification is baptism. And even in Abraham's case, Scripture even speaks of the inclusion of Abraham's works in his faith (Hebr. 11:8-10) and justification (James 2:21-24; see also 1 Macc. 2:52).

"So, we have to consult later sources in order to know whether earlier sources are clear? No, if the earlier sources are clear, we can know that without going to documents written 200 or 500 years later."

No, you have to consult later sources to substantiate your *claim* that it is clear by either showing that people who studied it in detail got the meaning or explaining in detail why they didn't. Clarity is entirely subjective, particularly when referring to theological dogma abstracted from a text. If you want it to mean something (viz., if you want to claim any kind of factual or historical support), then you have to subject that claim to historical analysis. And BTW, it happens ALL THE TIME that something that people thought was clear in a historical document turned out to be less clear than was originally thought, so this notion that clarity in the original source excuses you from looking at later history is simply fallacious.

"The Old Testament is clear in condemning idolatry, yet the Jewish people repeatedly fell into idolatry. Even some of Israel's best kings allowed the high places to remain, and I've given you the examples of 2 Kings 22:8-13 and Nehemiah 8:13-17 before. No, I'm not saying that we can assume that something like 2 Kings 22 and Nehemiah 8 has occurred without having any evidence to that effect. But I am saying that we know that a scenario such as we see in 2 Kings 22 or Nehemiah 8 not only *can* happen, but in fact *has* happened in the past."

But that doesn't *mean* anything if you can't provide the evidence to that effect. And I'm not talking about doctrinal evidence; that's assuming the conclusion. I'm talking about historical evidence showing exactly why these people went awry despite having access to the revelatory source. Even in the cases you cite, you have Scriptural evidence of the people either not studying the book or forgetting about it entirely, but the people you're contradicting on some of these matters spent years studying the Scripture and even wrote entire sermons on the very material you're citing as a source. It's one thing even to ignore a revelatory source, as the Jewish people did with idolatry, but it's another thing entirely to write an entire scholarly treatise on something and miss the clear meaning, and another thing yet for no one who did such studies to find it.

You're even on shaky *theological* ground here. There was a reason that the Jewish people ignored revelation so much: they suppressed the truth in unrighteousness and their hearts were hardened, with only a faithful remnant remaining. There is no parallel reason to think that such things would happen in the Christian era; indeed, the mark of a Christian in the evangelical worldview is that they hear and understand the word rather than seeing it as foolishness. To say that every single faithful Christian missed something stated "frequently" and "clearly" in Scripture to the point of teaching something blatantly anathematized is completely self-contradictory, and to suppose that there were people believing correctly of whom we have no record whatsoever is historically unbelievable. You can't logically hold that Christians can discern the Gospel while unbelievers cannot, and yet simultaneously claim that there are no Christians who can discern the Gospel.

"No, I didn't deny that more clarity should produce more agreement among interpreters. What I denied is that disagreement among interpreters *by itself* is enough to conclude that something is absent or unclear in the source being interpreted."

... IF you can explain why they missed it. Otherwise, it's historically implausible to assert that the meaning is clear; it is more probable that you are wrong about that. And the degree of implausibility only goes up with the number of disagreeing interpretations, so the more people who miss a clear interpretation, the more implausible it becomes. And when one of your theological claims is that the meaning is perspicuous to the faithful, that makes it even worse. My point is that your failure to explain the divergence makes your case absolutely historically unbelievable, no question about it. Until you carry that burden, you're out there with the Mormons in terms of historical believability, which is to say, you don't have any.

"The ancient Israelis were given clear commands against idolatry, yet there was widespread idolatry among them. The fact that something is taught clearly in scripture doesn't eliminate human fallibility and sinfulness. A person such as David, Solomon, or Asa can have many godly attributes, yet sometimes sin and misunderstand God and be misled by many influences in society, in his personal background, etc."

That fails as an explanation both theologically and historically. If you're talking about one or two isolated cases, OK, but you are talking about a universal rejection for centuries by people who supposedly had the scales removed from their eyes. And you're talking about missing about half of what is taught in Scripture for centuries among every living self-proclaimed Christian of which we are aware. No reasonable human being could possibly accept your explanation.

"Why couldn't I make a similar assessment of some of the church fathers? Couldn't I argue that they sometimes made false assumptions, had a false view of salvation, etc. without thereby accusing them of being 'moronic'?"

Sure, but then you'd have to give up your theology, so I assumed that given a choice, you would reject the historical evidence and call the Fathers stupid rather than accepting the obvious implications that the historical record would have for your theology of the "regenerate."

"The fathers I cited didn't base their views only on the book of Revelation. Papias claims to be going by apostolic tradition he received from the apostles and their contemporaries. And Justin Martyr and Irenaeus cite more than the book of Revelation."

But the fact remains that they did cite Revelation, and even the supplemental material was prophetic. Claims of apostolic tradition are resolved by the church as a whole, not individuals, so there are numerous contradictory claims of apostolic origin, not all of which can be true.

"I reject your claim of unanimity. Your argument is dependent on the assumption that I've misinterpreted all of the patristic evidence I've cited. Obviously, I don't accept that assumption."

No, my opinion is based on the scholarly consensus of the best authorities on the subject, which is pretty impressively arrayed against the view. But I certainly haven't see any evidence that you *aren't* misinterpreting all the patristic evidence you've cited. At any rate, it's not a mere assumption that I picked out of the air.

"Do you think Jesus was wrong to criticize people for not understanding the Messianic prophecies (Luke 24:25-26)? After all, not many people understood them the way Jesus did, so His interpretations couldn't have been clear, right?"

That's an odd example, because it relies on the traditional belief that the prophecies were Messianic. But at any rate, I seriously doubt that any of those passages would have been clear *before* the occurrence. In numerous instances, Jesus chastises people for not recognizing how the *current* happenings relate to the prophecies. In other words, it looks like a hindsight analysis (viz., when they saw Jesus raised from the dead, they should have see the connection with the prophecy). That hardly means that the meaning of the prophecy would have been clear *in advance* based strictly on the language of the prophecy.

"What about the many views of Jesus that existed early on (Jesus as a prophet, Jesus as the Messiah, the Gnostic view of Jesus, Porphyry's view that he was a divine man, etc.)? Do you conclude that Jesus' identity must therefore have been unclear?"

Sure. That's why people had to rely on the testimony of those closest to him and the corroboration of the historical event of the Resurrection. I certainly don't think they were arguing from revelation first; they had to establish the factual basis for their case.

"Paul says in Romans 1 that the existence and attributes of God are clear, leaving people without excuse. Why, then, do billions of people deny or not acknowledge those attributes of God?"

Because they exchange knowledge of God for lesser goods. They think they will be happier without having a creator, so they choose not to have one. But we're not talking about why those people make serious mistakes; we're talking about why faithful Christians make serious mistakes.

"The First Vatican Council says that the papacy is a clear doctrine of scripture. Why, then, do none of the earliest patristic sources mention the doctrine and why do hundreds of millions of professing Christians deny that the papacy is Biblical?"

Because what you mean by "clear" and what Pope Pius IX means by "clear" are different matters. If you view Scripture according to the Catholic rule of faith, then it is clear that Catholics consider the passage to support the papacy. That doesn't mean Joe Skeptic will find it clear.

"The fact that many people deny something doesn't prove that it's not clear."

True, but it's an entirely different matter when people who share the identical assumptions that are asserted to demonstrate the "clarity" of something are denying it.

"You can call it 'nonsense' if you want, but it's a reality, and it's a reality that Paul had to address repeatedly. To assume that it wouldn't be much of an issue in later generations is what's 'nonsense'."

Of course it's an *issue*, but it doesn't suffice as a historical (or even theological) explanation for the historical record. The human tendency toward legalism is not going to explain why the Gospel was absent from human society for more than a thousand years.

"If you would read J.P. Holding in context, you wouldn't misrepresent him. The fact that faith and works are seen as connected doesn't mean that they can't be distinguished."

I wasn't saying he made that argument. I was saying he ought to have, but he didn't. I think he is entirely wrong in his conclusion.

 
At 12:49 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Oops, and I forgot that I wanted to commend you, Jason, on the Newsweek letter as well. Well said!

 
At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SecretAgentMan and Jonathan,

Thanks for the encouragement regarding the Newsweek letter. We'll see what they do this Easter. I heard Jon Meacham say, in an interview with Cal Thomas, that he does believe in the historical, bodily resurrection of Christ, and he cited the evidence of Paul's testimony as a reason. If he does Newsweek's Easter story this year, it will be interesting to see how he covers it in light of the response to his Christmas article. But even if he favors the historicity of the resurrection in an Easter article, he'll probably do so in the context of casting doubt on many of the other details of the gospel accounts.

Jonathan, you said:

"Clement hadn't titled the chapter, 'Immense is This Reward. How Shall We Obtain It?' right after a chapter titled 'Great is the Reward of Good Works,' then there might be some possible argument for saying that the classification was inconclusive."

The chapter titles weren't written by Clement of Rome. They're from the editor. Other translations don't have them. Even if the titles had been written by Clement, he discusses works in both chapters, so reward for works is relevant to both. He does add a mention of life in immortality to chapter 35, but that doesn't require that the chapter be *only* about the results of works. Your argument would be incorrect even if Clement had written the chapter titles. But he didn't.

"The analogical comparison is between the way in which the blessings were received."

No, the section we're discussing specifically refers to justification, not "the blessings". And when you go on to quote what Clement wrote, you put a period after "works wrought in holiness of heart". There is no period there. You've misquoted him. Clement goes on to mention faith in that same sentence. Thus, he isn't just referring to the fact that God is the one who justifies or the fact that we need God's help. He's also explaining the means by which *we* receive justification, and he only mentions faith.

"If (1), then by (A), none of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob earned their blessings by any human action."

The two sentences you're comparing in chapter 32 aren't about the same subject, though they are related. The first sentence is about the origin of blessing, namely "the operation of His will". The second sentence is about the instrument through which we receive justification, namely "by that faith". Works are excluded in both contexts, because God's will isn't a result of works, and we're not justified through works. What you're arguing is that works are excluded in the second sentence only because Clement is addressing graceless works. But he goes on to mention only faith, not faith *and* works of grace. And the next chapter begins with a question that assumes that good works had just been excluded, so he probably wasn't excluding only deficient works.

"Thus, the fact that Clement doesn't mention works doesn't mean that he intends to exclude works that are part of faith."

If your argument requires you to define "faith" as "faith and works", then you've lost the dispute by any reasonable standard. Words have meanings. You can't define faith as meaning faith *and* something else. When Clement wants to refer to something that results from faith, he mentions that result, not just faith, as we see in chapter 31.

"The idea that deficiency for a particular purpose means 'bad' is illogical."

But my point doesn't depend on using the term "bad". Clement repeatedly refers to works of holiness as works Christians should be doing. Why should we assume that he's defining the concept differently in chapter 32? Why should we think that works of holiness are faithless, graceless, or deficient in some other way in chapter 32?

"a work wrought in holiness of heart is not justifying unless it is also righteousness 'wrought ... in faith.'"

You're undermining your own position, Jonathan. When Clement describes how we receive justification, he doesn't mention "righteousness wrought in faith". He only mentions "faith".

"My position is that the meaning of the term 'through faith' as defined by Clement *includes* works. That's not the same thing as saying that I think that there is something outside of the definition that needs to be inferred."

But if we're justified through faith *and* the works it produces, why would Clement only mention faith? Again, my interpretation is more natural. If he meant to say what you're saying, he could have used the same sort of terminology he used in chapter 31. He didn't. He only mentions faith. As I said before, if your argument requires you to claim that "faith" involves more than faith, then I would say that you've lost this dispute by any reasonable standard.

"Probably because he thinks that his statement that we are not justified through our OWN works will be misinterpreted as saying that we are not justified by ANY works (viz., sola fide)."

You argued earlier that Clement was teaching justification through works in chapter 31. You also claim that he's referring to both faith and works when he refers to being justified through faith in chapter 32. If you were correct, why would he need to explain in chapter 33 that he's not saying that people shouldn't do good works? If Clement was teaching justification through works of faith, why would he immediately follow up that teaching with a comment about how people shouldn't refrain from works of faith as a result of what he taught? Again, my interpretation is more natural.

I think it would be helpful to the readers to summarize the issues surrounding chapters 32-33 in First Clement. Here's what I've cited from Clement from those two chapters:

"And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love?"

In an attempt to reconcile this passage with your view of justification, you've argued that:

1.) The works excluded are deficient works, not all works.
2.) Even though we're justified through faith and works, Clement only mentions the beginning of the process, faith.
3.) When Clement says that all men have been justified in this manner, he's only speaking of general similarities in how people have been justified, since some aspects have changed over time, such as the addition of baptism.
4.) Even though he had just taught justification through works in chapters 31-32, and the phrase "faith" at the end of chapter 32 implies works of faith as being included as a means of attaining justification, Clement opens chapter 33 by saying that people shouldn't therefore conclude that works of faith aren't necessary.

Nothing in the text would lead us to any of those four assumptions. You have to bring them to the text.

My interpretation makes more sense than yours on all four points:

1.) I don't have to assume that only some works are being excluded when the text says nothing of the sort. I don't have to assume that works of holiness, which are repeatedly spoken of as *Christian* works elsewhere in Clement, are deficient works in chapter 32.
2.) When Clement mentions "faith", I think he meant faith, nothing more. You can't get a more natural interpretation than that. Furthermore, Clement's reference to working righteousness through faith in chapter 31 proves that he could have used such a phrase if he had such a concept in mind in chapter 32. Instead, he just mentions "faith".
3.) My interpretation gives more force to Clement's comment that all men have always been justified in the same manner. In my view, Abraham and Clement were both justified through faith. I don't believe that baptism or other requirements were added later. You can argue for a *general* similarity between how Abraham and Clement were justified, but my view makes the similarity closer.
4.) Under my interpretation, the question opening chapter 33 makes sense as a question asked in response to what Clement had just said. Your interpretation, on the other hand, has Clement responding to a question that requires a highly irrational misrepresentation of what he had just said. If he had just said that we attain justification through works of faith, why would he sense the need to answer the question of whether we should do works of faith? My interpretation makes more sense of the question Clement asks.

In closing, I would point out that even if we decided that it's unclear what view of justification Clement held, we would still have an example of a church father who can reasonably be interpreted as agreeing with a Protestant view of justification. Now, I don't think that Clement is unclear. I think he clearly asserts a Protestant view of justification. But even if we thought he was unclear, you can't reasonably deny that a Protestant interpretation is plausible.

"That the believer exchanges sin for righteousness through the sacrifice of the Cross is hardly news. But Mathetes is hardly describing imputation here: real sin is *actually* taken away; real righteousness is *actually* given."

How does Christ receive our sin? Is it infused? Does He become sinful? No. It would be more natural, then, to parallel Christ having sin *imputed* to Him with His righteousness being *imputed* to us. And the larger context of chapter 9 is about trusting God for what He's provided in His kindness after our works were shown to be insufficient. To interpret the passage by saying that Mathetes is referring to attaining justification through a lifetime of grace-empowered works is directly contrary to the theme of the passage. You agreed with me that Mathetes is addressing God's kindness in the substitutionary work of Christ. My view of justification puts far more emphasis on grace and substitution than yours does. If Mathetes believed that Christ's work made it possible for us to be justified through grace-empowered works, then why didn't he go on to discuss those works? He refers to Christ's righteousness *covering* our sins, which sounds more like imputation than infusion.

"Maybe he wasn't expecting for someone who believed in 'verbal inerrancy' to go back and to ascribe inordinate and entirely unintended significance to every single word he decided to use, as if he were the Holy Spirit's secretary."

Do you reject Biblical inerrancy? What do you make of passages like Matthew 5:17-18 and Galatians 3:16, then, where individual words are appealed to?

"Hey, we're not the ones who committed the error of thinking that there is only one way to receive the Holy Spirit (through regeneration). For Catholics, it doesn't surprise us in the least to see the Holy Spirit come upon a person before baptism"

But you're referring to exceptional cases. The passages I cited from scripture are about what's *normative*, unless you want to argue that the entire Galatian community of Christians and the entire Ephesian community, for example, were justified in an exceptional way. And when Paul asks the question he asks in Acts 19:2, why would he ask the question based on what's *exceptional*? He would ask the question based on what's normative. He considered it normative to receive the Holy Spirit at the time of faith, not at the time of baptism.

"Sola fide happens in some exceptional situations, but the normative mode for justification is baptism."

But Paul doesn't cite Abraham as an exception. He cites him as the rule, as an illustration of how we today are justified.

"And even in Abraham's case, Scripture even speaks of the inclusion of Abraham's works in his faith (Hebr. 11:8-10) and justification (James 2:21-24; see also 1 Macc. 2:52)."

Nobody denies that Abraham did works of faith and was justified through works in the sense of *vindication*. But he's also referred to as being justified through faith alone (Genesis 15:6), and that justification is referred to by Paul as normative. Genesis 15:6 is not normative in Roman Catholicism.

"this notion that clarity in the original source excuses you from looking at later history is simply fallacious."

That's not my argument. I don't claim that extra-Biblical sources don't have relevance. Not only the church fathers, but also Josephus, Tacitus, and other non-Biblical sources have relevance to interpreting the Bible. We also use sources outside of the church fathers to determine what *they* mean. We go through this process with any historical document. What I'm denying is that *your* use of the fathers in this context is appropriate. For example, if we know from the Old Testament context and documents written near the time of Paul, for example, that he's using the term "justify" in the sense of "declare righteous", we can reject what Augustine said a few hundred years later about "justify" meaning "make righteous". The fact that something similar to Augustine's view became popular among the fathers doesn't mean that we must let those fathers interpret Paul for us. The church fathers are part of the historical context of the New Testament, but they aren't the only historical context. And the further the fathers lived from the time of the apostles, the less contextual relevance they have. You may have interpreted me to be saying that the fathers have no relevance, but that isn't what I meant.

"but the people you're contradicting on some of these matters spent years studying the Scripture and even wrote entire sermons on the very material you're citing as a source."

And people like David, Solomon, and Asa studied the scriptures, yet they committed various sins and neglected some of what God had commanded (1 Kings 15:14, Nehemiah 8:17). The religious leaders of Israel studied the scriptures up to the time of Jesus, and believers such as Peter and Martha were familiar with the scriptures, yet Jesus repeatedly rebuked them for not understanding the Messianic prophecies and misunderstanding what He had taught them. And these church fathers you're referring to as studying the scriptures often contradicted *your* soteriology. Augustine was inconsistent in his views, and he acknowledged that there were many soteriological views held by various people in his day (City of God, 21:17-22). Some believed that everybody would eventually be saved. Others believed that you just had to have been baptized at some time in your life in order to be saved. Others believed that you had to persevere in good works as well. Etc. Jerome, for example, wasn't a universalist, but did believe that God would save those who had had faith, even if they died in sin. How could these people be so inconsistent with one another? I would argue that the problem is with these people, not with scripture being unclear. Is it your view that scripture *is* unclear, and that we should therefore consider a wide range of views of salvation to be orthodox?

"There was a reason that the Jewish people ignored revelation so much: they suppressed the truth in unrighteousness and their hearts were hardened, with only a faithful remnant remaining."

That's true of some of them, but not all of them. There were people like David, Solomon, and Asa who had been in good relationship with God, yet sinned and misunderstood things at times. In the New Testament era, we see it with people like Nicodemus and the men on the road to Emmaus, who were familiar with scripture, but had to be rebuked and taught by Jesus because of their many misconceptions.

"To say that every single faithful Christian missed something stated 'frequently' and 'clearly' in Scripture to the point of teaching something blatantly anathematized is completely self-contradictory"

Again, you're burning a straw man. I don't claim that "every single faithful Christian" missed justification through faith alone. You're the one asserting that the concept is absent before the Reformation. That's not my position.

But even if it was, your reasoning would contradict a passage like 2 Kings 22:8-13 or Nehemiah 8:13-17. How could so many godly people have been wrong? What's described in Nehemiah 8:17 would have involved people like David and Asa. In general, they were godly men.

"Claims of apostolic tradition are resolved by the church as a whole, not individuals, so there are numerous contradictory claims of apostolic origin, not all of which can be true."

Saying that the claims of the early premillennial fathers would be evaluated by "the church as a whole" doesn't explain why those fathers were premillennial. Papias most likely was a disciple of John, and he claims to have gotten his premillennialism from the apostles and their associates. Making an appeal to the church to determine whether Papias was correct doesn't explain how he and the other premillennial fathers allegedly erred.

"In other words, it looks like a hindsight analysis (viz., when they saw Jesus raised from the dead, they should have see the connection with the prophecy). That hardly means that the meaning of the prophecy would have been clear *in advance* based strictly on the language of the prophecy."

Either way, you have *godly* people such as Peter, Nicodemus, Martha, and the men on the road to Emmaus being wrong and being rebuked and corrected by Jesus. He tells them that they aren't understanding things they *should have known*. He refers to the men on the road to Emmaus, apparently godly men who had high regard for Jesus, being "foolish" and "slow of heart to believe" (Luke 24:25-26). Paul refers to the Galatians as "foolish" for departing from the gospel (Galatians 3:1). These Galatians were godly people who, by Paul's own testimony, would have plucked out their own eyes to give them to Paul in order to help him (Galatians 4:15).

"But we're not talking about why those people make serious mistakes; we're talking about why faithful Christians make serious mistakes."

Again, David was an adulterer, murderer, polygamist, etc. He was part of the problem described in Nehemiah 8:17. And he apparently never repented of his polygamy (Deuteronomy 17:17). Asa was a generally godly man, but he had a persistent problem with not completely eliminating idolatry as God had commanded (1 Kings 15:14). Christians disagree over whether Solomon was saved, but the reason why the possibility of his salvation is taken seriously is because believers or generally godly people *can* make what you call "serious mistakes".

"Because what you mean by 'clear' and what Pope Pius IX means by 'clear' are different matters. If you view Scripture according to the Catholic rule of faith, then it is clear that Catholics consider the passage to support the papacy. That doesn't mean Joe Skeptic will find it clear."

The First Vatican Council doesn't add those qualifiers. And your interpretation is unlikely given what the council goes on to say:

"For none can doubt, and it is known to all ages, that the holy and blessed Peter, the Prince and Chief of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, and lives presides and judges, to this day and always, in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome" (First Vatican Council, session 4, chapter 2)

If the council meant that "Roman Catholics cannot doubt", why did the council say "none can doubt"? Why does the council say that the papacy is "known to all ages" if it's not known to "Joe Skeptic" and other people who don't follow the Roman Catholic rule of faith?

Besides, I didn't just ask about "Joe Skeptic". I asked about the earliest Christians. Why didn't they believe in a papacy if the doctrine is "clear" in scripture, something "none can doubt" and "known to all ages"? One of the passages cited by the First Vatican Council is Matthew 16. Craig Keener, citing Jaroslav Pelikan, comments that "most scholars, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, concur that Peter died in Rome but doubt that Mt 16:18 intended the authority later claimed by the papacy (Pelikan 1980: 60)" (A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], p. 425). The Roman Catholic historian Klaus Schatz comments:

"There appears at the present time to be increasing consensus among Catholic and non-Catholic exegetes regarding the Petrine office in the New Testament….The further question whether there was any notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime, if posed in purely historical terms, should probably be answered in the negative. That is, if we ask whether the historical Jesus, in commissioning Peter, expected him to have successors, or whether the author of the Gospel of Matthew, writing after Peter’s death, was aware that Peter and his commission survived in the leaders of the Roman community who succeeded him, the answer in both cases is probably 'no.'…If we ask in addition whether the primitive Church was aware, after Peter’s death, that his authority had passed to the next bishop of Rome, or in other words that the head of the community at Rome was now the successor of Peter, the Church’s rock and hence the subject of the promise in Matthew 16:18-19, the question, put in those terms, must certainly be given a negative answer....Rome did not succeed in maintaining its position against the contrary opinion and praxis of a significant portion of the Church. The two most important controversies of this type were the disputes over the feast of Easter and heretical baptism. Each marks a stage in Rome’s sense of authority and at the same time reveals the initial resistance of other churches to the Roman claim." (Papal Primacy [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1996], pp. 1-2, 11)

Jason Engwer
http://members.aol.com/jasonte
New Testament Research Ministries
http://www.ntrmin.org

 
At 3:25 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

"The chapter titles weren't written by Clement of Rome. They're from the editor. Other translations don't have them."

That's an error on my part, because I didn't realize it. However, if my argument is sound (and it is), it would still be labeling that the translator considered believable, so it doesn't help for case.

"Even if the titles had been written by Clement, he discusses works in both chapters, so reward for works is relevant to both."

That's my point. He mentions eternal life as the reward for works.

"He does add a mention of life in immortality to chapter 35, but that doesn't require that the chapter be *only* about the results of works. Your argument would be incorrect even if Clement had written the chapter titles."

Yes, it does. Otherwise the chapter headings wouldn't make sense. You'd have to make an argument for this statement, and since you didn't, I presume it's false.


"No, the section we're discussing specifically refers to justification, not 'the blessings'."

The analogy made in Ch. 31:
"All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves..."
forbids your interpretation.

"And when you go on to quote what Clement wrote, you put a period after 'works wrought in holiness of heart'. There is no period there. You've misquoted him."

First, as I recall, you're an English major, so you know that the prevailing rule in the US is that closing punctuation goes inside the quotation whether that punctuation is part of the quotation or not, even if you personally don't follow it. Second, even if one doesn't follow that rule, reasonable substitutions such as replacing a period with a comma when your quotation falls between two independent clauses in a compound sentence, are not considered misquotations, even if one omits brackets. I completely reject your unfounded accusation; I was simply following common rules of grammar.

"Clement goes on to mention faith in that same sentence. Thus, he isn't just referring to the fact that God is the one who justifies or the fact that we need God's help. He's also explaining the means by which *we* receive justification, and he only mentions faith."

Ummm, the phrase that mentions faith after that says specifically that God justifies through faith, so that helps your case not at all.

"The two sentences you're comparing in chapter 32 aren't about the same subject, though they are related."

Clement says, "And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves." (There's that application of ordinary grammar again, just in case you'd like to accuse me of dishonesty.) This follows a sentence in which he uses the same pattern "All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for ...." (See, here the ellipses actually serve to replace something to preserve the meaning of the *phrase*, so I use them for clarity.) The comparative basis "too" drawing the analogy with the "are not" phrase means that the "not" phrases are analogous to one another.

"The first sentence is about the origin of blessing, namely 'the operation of His will'. The second sentence is about the instrument through which we receive justification, namely 'by that faith'."

This digs the hole deeper. The second sentence actually makes that comparison as well "being called by His will in Christ Jesus," making the analogy even stronger.

"Works are excluded in both contexts, because God's will isn't a result of works, and we're not justified through works."

Your interpretation is quite impossible. Clement says, "All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will." But in the previous chapter, Clement makes clear that these people WERE blessed for actions, and even asserts (using a rhetorical question) that Abraham was "because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith." (That's another substitution of ending punctuation at the end of the sentence. Since it's a rhetorical question, it doesn't change the meaning, you see.) Thus, something being "through the operation of His will" clearly does NOT exclude works. Clement even explains that situation by proving that works are gifts from God.

"What you're arguing is that works are excluded in the second sentence only because Clement is addressing graceless works. But he goes on to mention only faith, not faith *and* works of grace."

I'm only arguing that Clement is mentioning works that are not wrought through faith. Grace has nothing to do with it.

"And the next chapter begins with a question that assumes that good works had just been excluded, so he probably wasn't excluding only deficient works."

It doesn't assume any such thing. It only assumes that someone might erroneously draw the *conclusion* that good works had just been excluded. It's a rhetorical device identical to the one used frequently by Paul, having the form of an incorrect question followed by "God forbid!" or "By no means!" (Since an exclamation point is a stronger ending mark than a period, I keep the original punctuation, which also goes within the quotation marks.)

"But my point doesn't depend on using the term 'bad'. Clement repeatedly refers to works of holiness as works Christians should be doing."

But you draw the unwarranted inference that "should be doing" means "should be sufficient for every purpose." That doesn't follow.

"Why should we assume that he's defining the concept differently in chapter 32?"

We're not assuming it. Clement says so by excluding "works wrought in holiness of heart." (Feel free to falsely accuse me of misquotation again.)

"Why should we think that works of holiness are faithless, graceless, or deficient in some other way in chapter 32?"

Because "holiness of heart" and "faith" aren't the same thing.

"You're undermining your own position, Jonathan. When Clement describes how we receive justification, he doesn't mention 'righteousness wrought in faith'. He only mentions 'faith'."

No, that strengthens my position, because it shows that works can be wrought "through faith," which means that justification "by faith" or "through faith" can include works as well. I would hardly mention something that logically weakened my case as evidence for my case.

"But if we're justified through faith *and* the works it produces, why would Clement only mention faith?"

Why would the fact that he doesn't mention works exclude works from the process altogether? You are making the stronger negative claim from Clement's silence, so it is your obligation to prove the case, not mine.

"Again, my interpretation is more natural. If he meant to say what you're saying, he could have used the same sort of terminology he used in chapter 31. He didn't. He only mentions faith."

On the contrary, the stronger exclusion from silence is presumptively less natural, and consequently, you have the burden of proof on showing it. To put it another way, the assertion that the use of terms means that the two have entirely different meanings is an assertion that must be proved; it is not the natural assumption.

"As I said before, if your argument requires you to claim that 'faith' involves more than faith, then I would say that you've lost this dispute by any reasonable standard."

Fortunately, it doesn't. It only requires me to show that "through faith" doesn't *exclude* works. You have not even carried your prima facie burden, and I've actually proved from Clement's own words that "through faith" *includes* works. Consequently, based on the actual burden of proof that every debate entails (stronger claims require stronger proof), your failure to prove the stronger exclusion from silence means that I would win by default. But I actually demonstrated my position as well, which means any reasonable person would be required to accept my position at this point.

"You argued earlier that Clement was teaching justification through works in chapter 31. You also claim that he's referring to both faith and works when he refers to being justified through faith in chapter 32. If you were correct, why would he need to explain in chapter 33 that he's not saying that people shouldn't do good works? If Clement was teaching justification through works of faith, why would he immediately follow up that teaching with a comment about how people shouldn't refrain from works of faith as a result of what he taught? Again, my interpretation is more natural."

Considering that I have submitted a plausible counter-interpretation and that you haven't proved the stronger claim on which your case depends, this proves nothing. Besides, it's extraordinarily easy to see all three of the chapters as a response to a single question. IOW, Ch. 33 isn't necessarily responding to a question that was inspired by Ch. 32.

"In an attempt to reconcile this passage with your view of justification, you've argued that:

1.) The works excluded are deficient works, not all works.
2.) Even though we're justified through faith and works, Clement only mentions the beginning of the process, faith.
3.) When Clement says that all men have been justified in this manner, he's only speaking of general similarities in how people have been justified, since some aspects have changed over time, such as the addition of baptism.
4.) Even though he had just taught justification through works in chapters 31-32, and the phrase "faith" at the end of chapter 32 implies works of faith as being included as a means of attaining justification, Clement opens chapter 33 by saying that people shouldn't therefore conclude that works of faith aren't necessary."

(1) is misleading for the reasons I stated above. (2) is not what I'm claiming. (3) is spurious (if I can prove the general point, then the fact that one of the works is baptism is irrelevant). (4) requires you to show that this is true definitely or likely from other factors. My counter-explanation denies the first, and your failure to carry your burden of proof on your claim to exclusion requires only that I provide a reasonable explanation to answer this claim. Hence, your view is still implausible.

"Nothing in the text would lead us to any of those four assumptions. You have to bring them to the text."

I didn't assume any of them in making my case, so your assertion here is simply false.

"My interpretation makes more sense than yours on all four points:

1.) I don't have to assume that only some works are being excluded when the text says nothing of the sort. I don't have to assume that works of holiness, which are repeatedly spoken of as *Christian* works elsewhere in Clement, are deficient works in chapter 32."

I don't have to assume it either. It's proved from Clement's own words.

"2.) When Clement mentions "faith", I think he meant faith, nothing more. You can't get a more natural interpretation than that. Furthermore, Clement's reference to working righteousness through faith in chapter 31 proves that he could have used such a phrase if he had such a concept in mind in chapter 32. Instead, he just mentions "faith"."

No, you're claiming that "through faith" excludes works because Clement doesn't use the word "works." That's a stronger claim from silence, which is by definition less natural.

"3.) My interpretation gives more force to Clement's comment that all men have always been justified in the same manner. In my view, Abraham and Clement were both justified through faith. I don't believe that baptism or other requirements were added later. You can argue for a *general* similarity between how Abraham and Clement were justified, but my view makes the similarity closer."

"Closeness" is irrelevant. You have to prove that your basis for analogizing the circumstances matches the basis on which Clement draws the analogy, which you haven't.

"4.) Under my interpretation, the question opening chapter 33 makes sense as a question asked in response to what Clement had just said. Your interpretation, on the other hand, has Clement responding to a question that requires a highly irrational misrepresentation of what he had just said. If he had just said that we attain justification through works of faith, why would he sense the need to answer the question of whether we should do works of faith? My interpretation makes more sense of the question Clement asks."

It's not a "highly irrational" misrepresentation. It's simply a mistake, the possibility of which Clement could be acknowledging. That also makes it more likely that Chs. 31-33 are a unit responding to a single question (rather than Ch. 33 being a "response" to Ch.32), and if so, then my interpretation is more natural.

"In closing, I would point out that even if we decided that it's unclear what view of justification Clement held, we would still have an example of a church father who can reasonably be interpreted as agreeing with a Protestant view of justification. Now, I don't think that Clement is unclear. I think he clearly asserts a Protestant view of justification. But even if we thought he was unclear, you can't reasonably deny that a Protestant interpretation is plausible."

If my argument is sound, then your interpretation isn't even plausible.

"How does Christ receive our sin? Is it infused? Does He become sinful? No. It would be more natural, then, to parallel Christ having sin *imputed* to Him with His righteousness being *imputed* to us."

The Lamb of God is described as "taking away" the sins of the world by atonement and "becoming sin" even though He doesn't actually become sinful. My point is that if the state of sin is an ontological state of being, then imputation wouldn't even be taking it away. It would make the exchange (taking away sin, infusing righteousness) an unreal thing.

"And the larger context of chapter 9 is about trusting God for what He's provided in His kindness after our works were shown to be insufficient. To interpret the passage by saying that Mathetes is referring to attaining justification through a lifetime of grace-empowered works is directly contrary to the theme of the passage. You agreed with me that Mathetes is addressing God's kindness in the substitutionary work of Christ. My view of justification puts far more emphasis on grace and substitution than yours does."

This is simply meaningless. First, Mathetes doesn't even mention the process by which the exchange takes place. Second, I'm not even clear on what your statements have to do with Catholic soteriology. Third, putting "far more emphasis on grace and substitution," in addition to being purely subjective and gratuitous, is irrelevant; it's not a contest in which the best person to uphold some subjective theme that you have identified to the exclusion of all others wins. This is not an argument by any stretch of the imagination.

"If Mathetes believed that Christ's work made it possible for us to be justified through grace-empowered works, then why didn't he go on to discuss those works?"

Because he's talking about what Christ did, not how we receive what Christ did.

"He refers to Christ's righteousness *covering* our sins, which sounds more like imputation than infusion."

Only in your subjective opinion.

"Do you reject Biblical inerrancy? What do you make of passages like Matthew 5:17-18 and Galatians 3:16, then, where individual words are appealed to?"

Of course I don't reject Biblical inerrancy, but I reject the idea that in every single instance the selection of a particular word as opposed to a more comprehensive phrase has exegetical significance.

"But you're referring to exceptional cases. The passages I cited from scripture are about what's *normative*, unless you want to argue that the entire Galatian community of Christians and the entire Ephesian community, for example, were justified in an exceptional way."

My point was exactly that they *weren't* justified upon receiving the actual grace of the Holy Spirit. I'm not saying that it's exceptional; it's always the case that adults to receive the actual grace of the Holy Spirit before baptism. I accept the normativity of the passage.

"And when Paul asks the question he asks in Acts 19:2, why would he ask the question based on what's *exceptional*? He would ask the question based on what's normative. He considered it normative to receive the Holy Spirit at the time of faith, not at the time of baptism."

As I said, there are numerous different ways to receive the Holy Spirit, and this obviously refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit rather than the influence of the Holy Spirit. But this example hardly helps your case.
Acts.19
[1]
While Apol'los was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.

[2] And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
[3] And he said, "Into what then were you *baptized*?" They said, "Into John's *baptism*."
[4] And Paul said, "John *baptized* with the *baptism* of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus."
[5] On hearing this, they were *baptized* in the name of the Lord Jesus.

"But Paul doesn't cite Abraham as an exception. He cites him as the rule, as an illustration of how we today are justified."

Again, you have to show in what respect he is being cited as an example, and that is by faith as opposed to works of the Law. It's obviously the most appropriate example because it distinguished faith from Law. To make a more general application is to make more of the analogy than Paul does.


"Nobody denies that Abraham did works of faith and was justified through works in the sense of *vindication*. But he's also referred to as being justified through faith alone (Genesis 15:6), and that justification is referred to by Paul as normative. Genesis 15:6 is not normative in Roman Catholicism."

Sure it is; it's normative of being justified by the New Covenant and not by the Old Covenant.

"That's not my argument. I don't claim that extra-Biblical sources don't have relevance. Not only the church fathers, but also Josephus, Tacitus, and other non-Biblical sources have relevance to interpreting the Bible. We also use sources outside of the church fathers to determine what *they* mean. We go through this process with any historical document. What I'm denying is that *your* use of the fathers in this context is appropriate. For example, if we know from the Old Testament context and documents written near the time of Paul, for example, that he's using the term "justify" in the sense of "declare righteous", we can reject what Augustine said a few hundred years later about "justify" meaning "make righteous". The fact that something similar to Augustine's view became popular among the fathers doesn't mean that we must let those fathers interpret Paul for us. The church fathers are part of the historical context of the New Testament, but they aren't the only historical context. And the further the fathers lived from the time of the apostles, the less contextual relevance they have. You may have interpreted me to be saying that the fathers have no relevance, but that isn't what I meant."

No, that's exactly what I mean. You are asserting that the Gospel can lose so much content that dedicated Christians can't even understand it (to the point of adopting anathematized behavior) even having access to revelation. Your assertion about the "perspicuity" of Scripture depends on this. How can something be the light of the world when its opposite is universally taught throughout the entire world?

"And people like David, Solomon, and Asa studied the scriptures, yet they committed various sins and neglected some of what God had commanded (1 Kings 15:14, Nehemiah 8:17)."

Committing sins is one thing. Teaching that their behavior was sanctioned by the law is another thing entirely. Obviously, once they returned to obedience, they repented of their sin.

"The religious leaders of Israel studied the scriptures up to the time of Jesus, and believers such as Peter and Martha were familiar with the scriptures, yet Jesus repeatedly rebuked them for not understanding the Messianic prophecies and misunderstanding what He had taught them."

I don't think He was rebuking them for not understanding the "perspicuous" meaning of Messianic prophecies. I think he was rebuking them for not recognizing the significance in light of the circumstances. That seems relatively obvious from context.

"And these church fathers you're referring to as studying the scriptures often contradicted *your* soteriology. Augustine was inconsistent in his views, and he acknowledged that there were many soteriological views held by various people in his day (City of God, 21:17-22). Some believed that everybody would eventually be saved. Others believed that you just had to have been baptized at some time in your life in order to be saved. Others believed that you had to persevere in good works as well."

That's why we don't believe in the "perspicuity" of Scripture, although after your analysis of Gregory of Nyssa, I question whether you actually have evidence of universalism or being saved by baptism alone. I'll freely concede that people believed in the requirement of perseverance in good works. In fact, I can't think of any father who believed otherwise.

"Etc. Jerome, for example, wasn't a universalist, but did believe that God would save those who had had faith, even if they died in sin."

I hope you won't mind if I ask you to substantiate that claim.

"How could these people be so inconsistent with one another?"

Because some matters of the faith are not obvious. They develop as they are held in the Church over time.

"I would argue that the problem is with these people, not with scripture being unclear."

Which is a ridiculous claim to make based on history. This is why I consider your faith to be completely without historical foundation.

"Is it your view that scripture *is* unclear, and that we should therefore consider a wide range of views of salvation to be orthodox?"

Not at all. What the Church has learned, we know. What I would love to see is how YOU explain the gradual increase in uniformity of belief over time, despite Scripture not having changed.

"That's true of some of them, but not all of them. There were people like David, Solomon, and Asa who had been in good relationship with God, yet sinned and misunderstood things at times. In the New Testament era, we see it with people like Nicodemus and the men on the road to Emmaus, who were familiar with scripture, but had to be rebuked and taught by Jesus because of their many misconceptions."

Yes, and they are still rebuked and taught by authoritative teachers. You're proving the case against sola scriptura for me.

"Again, you're burning a straw man. I don't claim that "every single faithful Christian" missed justification through faith alone. You're the one asserting that the concept is absent before the Reformation. That's not my position."

It's not your position, but it's the historical fact of what you're claiming. You are clinging to history approximately as reliable as a conspiracy theory in order to support your claim.

"But even if it was, your reasoning would contradict a passage like 2 Kings 22:8-13 or Nehemiah 8:13-17. How could so many godly people have been wrong? What's described in Nehemiah 8:17 would have involved people like David and Asa. In general, they were godly men."

That's the difference between the Light of the World, the Gospel, having been revealed and not. But as I said, if there were some evidence of the Church Fathers having been negligent in their study of Scripture, you might have a case. These were people making careful study of the Scriptures that you think contradict them.

"Saying that the claims of the early premillennial fathers would be evaluated by 'the church as a whole' doesn't explain why those fathers were premillennial. Papias most likely was a disciple of John, and he claims to have gotten his premillennialism from the apostles and their associates. Making an appeal to the church to determine whether Papias was correct doesn't explain how he and the other premillennial fathers allegedly erred."

In the particular case of Papias, we actually have records from Eusebius of his having been influenced by spurious literature that he believed to be of apostolic origin. IOW, it seems unlikely that his opinions stemmed from John himself, but rather by interpreting what John had written in light of the spurious literature. He could accept it because the meaning of the prophecy was somewhat unclear itself, and whatever contradiction there might be would not be obvious. So basically, I carry my burden of explaining where and why individuals err.

"Either way, you have *godly* people such as Peter, Nicodemus, Martha, and the men on the road to Emmaus being wrong and being rebuked and corrected by Jesus. He tells them that they aren't understanding things they *should have known*. He refers to the men on the road to Emmaus, apparently godly men who had high regard for Jesus, being "foolish" and "slow of heart to believe" (Luke 24:25-26)."

Again, we have no indication that this had a thing to do with them not understanding the words of the passages.

"Paul refers to the Galatians as 'foolish' for departing from the gospel (Galatians 3:1)."

Good thing they had Paul to correct them, wasn't it? Imagine if we had to rely only on writings that the Galatians had. Oh, wait, that's what you're arguing.

"These Galatians were godly people who, by Paul's own testimony, would have plucked out their own eyes to give them to Paul in order to help him (Galatians 4:15)."

And they still made mistakes. Good thing Paul was there to catch them.

"Again, David was an adulterer, murderer, polygamist, etc. He was part of the problem described in Nehemiah 8:17. And he apparently never repented of his polygamy (Deuteronomy 17:17). Asa was a generally godly man, but he had a persistent problem with not completely eliminating idolatry as God had commanded (1 Kings 15:14). Christians disagree over whether Solomon was saved, but the reason why the possibility of his salvation is taken seriously is because believers or generally godly people *can* make what you call 'serious mistakes'."

Sure. What I'd like to see are these people specifically citing a passage from Scripture like the joining of Adam and Eve as one flesh to support their polygamy. Surely, that would be implausible beyond belief. Inconsistency between behavior and belief and even neglecting belief, I understand. Error in attempting to submit to a "perspicuous" meaning is senseless.

"The First Vatican Council doesn't add those qualifiers....
If the council meant that "Roman Catholics cannot doubt", why did the council say "none can doubt"? Why does the council say that the papacy is "known to all ages" if it's not known to "Joe Skeptic" and other people who don't follow the Roman Catholic rule of faith?"

They're implied by the audience. Otherwise, "none can doubt" would mean that it was literally impossible for any human being to doubt it, including Muslims, etc. It's written by the Pope as Universal Pastor to the Catholic faithful.

"Besides, I didn't just ask about "Joe Skeptic". I asked about the earliest Christians. Why didn't they believe in a papacy if the doctrine is "clear" in scripture, something "none can doubt" and "known to all ages"?"

It doesn't say "none have ever doubted," and it was "known to all ages," at least implicitly. None of which has a thing to do with why Clement or Mathetes believed sola fide or why your notion of perspicuity of Scripture is historically implausible. You *really* need to stop changing the subject off of your own view when called on to defend it.

"One of the passages cited by the First Vatican Council is Matthew 16. Craig Keener, citing Jaroslav Pelikan, comments that 'most scholars, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, concur that Peter died in Rome but doubt that Mt 16:18 intended the authority later claimed by the papacy (Pelikan 1980: 60).'"

We all know that the meaning of Matthew 16 was not fully realized until later. Again, this has nothing to do with the historical implausibility of your view, and this is a waste of time for you. I'll worry about the historical implausibility of my own view; your job here is to defend your own. Plus, you're calling your own source, Klaus Schatz, irrational for submitting to Vatican I, which seems a little odd.

 
At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan said:

"Ummm, the phrase that mentions faith after that says specifically that God justifies through faith, so that helps your case not at all."

I didn't deny that God is mentioned as the justifier. My point was that Clement is addressing the means through which justification is received from God, and the only means he mentions is faith.

"The second sentence actually makes that comparison as well 'being called by His will in Christ Jesus,' making the analogy even stronger."

You're repeatedly missing the point. As I said, the two sentences you're referring to in chapter 32 are related, but aren't about the same subject. Citing the fact that both sentences mention the will of God does nothing to refute what I said.

"But in the previous chapter, Clement makes clear that these people WERE blessed for actions, and even asserts (using a rhetorical question) that Abraham was 'because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith.'"

Again, you're not refuting what I said. The reason why works are included in chapter 31 while being excluded in chapter 32 is because different subjects are being addressed, not because different works are being addressed.

"Thus, something being 'through the operation of His will' clearly does NOT exclude works."

I didn't argue that it excludes works as the *means* through which blessings are attained. But it does exclude works as the *origin*. And in the next sentence, Clement tells us that works are also excluded as the means by which we receive justification. Thus, Clement's message in chapters 31-33 is that God originates the process apart from works, we receive justification through faith and apart from works, and further blessings are attained through both faith and works. The process begins with God, expands to our faith, then further expands to include our works as well. Justification comes at the time of faith, not at the time of works.

"It only assumes that someone might erroneously draw the *conclusion* that good works had just been excluded."

Again, if Clement had just said that we attain justification through works of faith, why would he expect anybody to neglect works of faith in response? My interpretation of chapter 32 makes more sense of the question that opens chapter 33.

"But you draw the unwarranted inference that 'should be doing [Christian works of holiness]' means 'should be sufficient for every purpose.' That doesn't follow."

Once again, you've missed the point. In the comment you were responding to, I was addressing *Christian* works of holiness. Those are works done with faith. According to you, such works are the ones whereby we attain justification. If works of holiness are considered Christian works when Clement repeatedly refers to them in other places, why should we think that they're deficient works in chapter 32?

"We're not assuming it. Clement says so by excluding 'works wrought in holiness of heart.'"

The issue under discussion is whether works of holiness are non-Christian works in chapter 32. I pointed out that works of holiness are Christian works when Clement refers to them in other chapters. And you're responding by telling me that we know that Christian works can't be in view, since Clement excludes them. But you're begging the question. The only way you can claim to know that Christian works wouldn't be excluded from justification is if you know that justification is *not* through faith alone. But that's the issue under discussion. You can't assume your conclusion in order to justify your conclusion. Again, if works of holiness are Christian works in other chapters of First Clement, why should we assume that they're non-Christian (faithless) works in chapter 32?

"No, that strengthens my position, because it shows that works can be wrought 'through faith,' which means that justification 'by faith' or 'through faith' can include works as well."

Again, all that you're doing is asserting your position without any evidence. If only faith is mentioned, it doesn't make sense to assume that works are meant to be included. If he wanted to refer to works of faith, he could have done so in the same manner in which he did it in chapter 31. What we have, then, is Clement *excluding* works of holiness, which are elsewhere described as Christian works, and only *including* faith, yet you want us to believe that Christian works are *included* and that "faith" means "faith and works". As I said before, by any reasonable standard you've lost this dispute.

"Why would the fact that he doesn't mention works exclude works from the process altogether? You are making the stronger negative claim from Clement's silence, so it is your obligation to prove the case, not mine."

You're turning logic on its head. Clement only mentions faith, and you want us to think that works are included, yet it's *my* responsibility to prove that works aren't in view?

"I've actually proved from Clement's own words that 'through faith' *includes* works."

No, what you've shown is that Clement refers to doing works of faith elsewhere. Nobody denies that fact. But when he refers to working righteousness through faith, he doesn't just say "faith". In chapter 32, on the other hand, he does just mention faith. You can't assume that works of faith are the same as faith just because both involve faith.

"IOW, Ch. 33 isn't necessarily responding to a question that was inspired by Ch. 32."

The question in chapter 33 comes just after Clement excluded works of holiness and mentioned faith as the receiver of justification. That question in chapter 33 makes sense as something that would come just after chapter 32 *if* chapter 32 has the meaning I've argued for. If your interpretation of chapter 32 motivates you to awkwardly apply the question of chapter 33 to something said further back, then that's just more evidence of the implausibility of your interpretation.

"No, you're claiming that 'through faith' excludes works because Clement doesn't use the word 'works.' That's a stronger claim from silence, which is by definition less natural."

No, all that I'm saying is that "faith" means "faith". You're asserting that it includes works as well. You carry the burden of proof.

"The Lamb of God is described as 'taking away' the sins of the world by atonement and 'becoming sin' even though He doesn't actually become sinful."

And as Christ doesn't become sinful, it makes sense that His righteousness is given in the same way. We don't actually become righteous in justification. We do become righteous in sanctification, but that occurs *after* our reconciliation with God. Mathetes is addressing the reconciliation. By your own admission, Jesus "doesn't actually become sinful". The most natural parallel would be for us to not actually become righteous in justification.

"Third, putting 'far more emphasis on grace and substitution,' in addition to being purely subjective and gratuitous, is irrelevant; it's not a contest in which the best person to uphold some subjective theme that you have identified to the exclusion of all others wins."

It's not a theme I've identified. Mathetes is the one who emphasizes the theme of God's kindness through the substitutionary work of Christ. To speak of Christ being our Substitute, while saying at the same time that we must work in order to attain His substitutionary work, is nonsensical doublespeak.

"My point was exactly that they *weren't* justified upon receiving the actual grace of the Holy Spirit. I'm not saying that it's exceptional; it's always the case that adults to receive the actual grace of the Holy Spirit before baptism. I accept the normativity of the passage."

We're discussing Galatians 3:2 and Ephesians 1:13-14. Paul refers to people receiving the Spirit Himself in Galatians 3:2, not just "grace of the Holy Spirit", as you put it. In Galatians 3:6-9, Paul tells us that he's addressing *justification*, not some pre-baptismal reception of the grace of the Holy Spirit that occurs prior to justification. Ephesians 1:13 refers to being sealed in Christ. Those who have the Spirit are children of God (Romans 8:9-11, Galatians 4:6). You go on to quote Acts 19 referring to baptism, as if the fact that people are baptized contradicts my position. It doesn't. But Acts 19:2 does contradict your position, since it suggests that Paul considered it normative to receive the Spirit, the seal of salvation, at the time of faith, not at the time of baptism.

"Again, you have to show in what respect he is being cited as an example, and that is by faith as opposed to works of the Law. It's obviously the most appropriate example because it distinguished faith from Law. To make a more general application is to make more of the analogy than Paul does."

No, read Galatians 3:5-6. Paul describes how the Galatians received the Holy Spirit at the end of verse 5 ("by hearing with faith"). The next verse begins with the words "Even so", then cites Genesis 15:6. A direct comparison is being made between how the Galatians were justified and how Abraham was justified. Genesis 15:6 has no sacraments or works of any other type. Abraham just believes. Sola fide.

"You are asserting that the Gospel can lose so much content that dedicated Christians can't even understand it (to the point of adopting anathematized behavior) even having access to revelation."

No, if somebody misunderstands justification, it's not because he *can't* understand it. When Augustine disagrees with Roman Catholic theology, do you assume that he *couldn't* understand it?

"I hope you won't mind if I ask you to substantiate that claim."

Yes:

"Saint Jerome, though an enemy of Origen, was, when it came to salvation, more of an Origenist than Ambrose. He believed that all sinners, all mortal beings, with the exception of Satan, atheists, and the ungodly, would be saved: 'Just as we believe that the torments of the Devil, of all the deniers of God, of the ungodly who have said in their hearts, 'there is no God,' will be eternal, so too do we believe that the judgment of Christian sinners, whose works will be tried and purged in fire will be moderate and mixed with clemency.' Furthermore, 'He who with all his spirit has placed his faith in Christ, even if he die in sin, shall by his faith live forever.'" (Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory [Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1986], p. 61)



And:



"Jerome develops the same distinction, stating that, while the Devil and the impious who have denied God will be tortured without remission, those who have trusted in Christ, even if they have sinned and fallen away, will eventually be saved." (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 484)

You said:

"Because some matters of the faith are not obvious. They develop as they are held in the Church over time."

So, how a person attains eternal life was *unclear* during the early centuries of Christianity? When I see the people of Augustine's day teaching a wide variety of views of salvation, I blame them. When you see them teaching a wide variety of views, you blame scripture and "the faith" in general for being unclear.

"In the particular case of Papias, we actually have records from Eusebius of his having been influenced by spurious literature that he believed to be of apostolic origin."

Where does Eusebius say that Papias was "influenced by spurious literature"?

"IOW, it seems unlikely that his opinions stemmed from John himself, but rather by interpreting what John had written in light of the spurious literature. He could accept it because the meaning of the prophecy was somewhat unclear itself, and whatever contradiction there might be would not be obvious. So basically, I carry my burden of explaining where and why individuals err."

So, you tell us that Papias, a disciple of John and contemporary of the apostles, misunderstood the eschatology taught by John. But if I say that Augustine, living a few hundred years after the time of the apostles, misunderstood Paul's soteriology, and I can document that Augustine misdefined the term "justify", for example, you accuse me of being unreasonable.

"Again, we have no indication that this had a thing to do with them not understanding the words of the passages."

It doesn't matter whether the error was over a passage of scripture or something Jesus taught orally or some event in history. You said that it would be unreasonable to suggest that generally godly people could err on such important matters. But we know that generally godly people often *have* erred on important matters. I gave you example after example after example.

"Error in attempting to submit to a 'perspicuous' meaning is senseless."

Let me use the example of the men on the road to Emmaus again. They seem to have been generally godly men. Yet, Jesus rebukes them as "foolish" and "slow of heart to believe" (Luke 24:25-26). Was He rebuking them for not understanding something that was unclear? No, He was rebuking them for not understanding something that they should have understood. Likewise, when the Galatians followed after a false gospel, Paul rebuked them for being "foolish" (Galatians 3:1). He didn't apologize for not being clear about the gospel. Rather, he held the Galatians responsible for departing from what was clear. And neither the men on the road to Emmaus nor the Galatians claimed to be abandoning God or abandoning the gospel. Rather, they continued to profess interest in God and the things pertaining to Him. They were wrong, but they were still religious. Likewise, the fact that a church father studied scripture, called himself a Christian, etc. doesn't prove that he wouldn't be able to err on a matter that's clear in scripture.

"They're implied by the audience. Otherwise, 'none can doubt' would mean that it was literally impossible for any human being to doubt it, including Muslims, etc."

That's not the only possibility. The phrase could also mean that nobody ought to doubt the doctrine. That interpretation is far more reasonable than your interpretation and the alternative you describe above.

"It's written by the Pope as Universal Pastor to the Catholic faithful."

As if something addressed primarily to Catholics can only mention Catholics? Chapter 1 of session 4 of the First Vatican Council condemns those with "perverse" opinions who deny the "clear" papal meaning of scripture. If the papal meaning is clear only to "the Catholic faithful", why would the council criticize people with "perverse" opinions who reject the doctrine? If the doctrine is unclear to those people, why criticize them for rejecting what's unclear?

"It doesn't say 'none have ever doubted,' and it was 'known to all ages,' at least implicitly."

How did the earliest Christians "implicitly" know of the jurisdictional primacy of Peter and the bishops of Rome, as the First Vatican Council describes? Are you saying that the earliest Christians believed in concepts that you and other Roman Catholics later decided to associate with a papacy, even though the concepts themselves wouldn't logically compel anybody to such a conclusion?

Jason Engwer
http://members.aol.com/jasonte
New Testament Research Ministries
http://www.ntrmin.org

 
At 6:53 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

"My point was that Clement is addressing the means through which justification is received from God, and the only means he mentions is faith."


And the question is *how* faith acts as a means. Does it act as a means just by being there (as you are arguing)? Does it act as a means by working in love (as I am arguing)? Just saying that justification is "by faith" or "through faith" doesn't say anything about that.


"You're repeatedly missing the point. As I said, the two sentences you're referring to in chapter 32 are related, but aren't about the same subject. Citing the fact that both sentences mention the will of God does nothing to refute what I said.
...
Again, you're not refuting what I said. The reason why works are included in chapter 31 while being excluded in chapter 32 is because different subjects are being addressed, not because different works are being addressed."


I'm not missing it; my point is your interpretation is flat out imposssible. There is absolutely no logical way that the passages could be talking about "different subjects" in the way that you are suggesting with the analogy that was drawn. I know that you are *claiming* that, but you haven't *proved* it. You've merely asserted it.


"I didn't argue that it excludes works as the *means* through which blessings are attained. But it does exclude works as the *origin*."


It depends on what you mean by "origin." They aren't the originating cause, but that's the case of every step of justification.


"And in the next sentence, Clement tells us that works are also excluded as the means by which we receive justification."


That's begging the question. I don't agree with the interpretation that ALL works are being excluded from the means of justification.


"Thus, Clement's message in chapters 31-33 is that God originates the process apart from works, we receive justification through faith and apart from works, and further blessings are attained through both faith and works."


The fact that God's origination of the process at all steps is entirely gratuitous doesn't say anything about what the process is. The "apart from works" is what's being debated. Your point about further blessings being "attained through both faith and works" is necessarily false if you are arguing that justification is not by works. Moreover, it contradicts Clement's expressed point, which is that the blessings given to Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac were gratuitous and not given as a reward for works either.

"Again, if Clement had just said that we attain justification through works of faith, why would he expect anybody to neglect works of faith in response?"

Because someone could assume that Clement was contradicting himself (as you did) when he said that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were justified by works and faith. Ch. 33 explains how works can *also* be gifts from God.

"My interpretation of chapter 32 makes more sense of the question that opens chapter 33."

Either one makes sense. It could be directed at a mistake in interpretation every bit as much as an inference drawn from a correct position. IOW, Clement could be clarifying or explaining himself, or he could be talking about something entirely different (viz., not giving up good works even though they have nothing to do with justification).

"Once again, you've missed the point. In the comment you were responding to, I was addressing *Christian* works of holiness. Those are works done with faith. According to you, such works are the ones whereby we attain justification. If works of holiness are considered Christian works when Clement repeatedly refers to them in other places, why should we think that they're deficient works in chapter 32?"

"Christian" works don't have anything to do with it. Non-Christians can do "good" works through common grace without being Christians, and similarly, not every "good" work done by Christians is a work of faith wotking charity. That's not saying that those things aren't good and should not be encouraged, but they don't rise to the level of being "faith working in charity."

"The issue under discussion is whether works of holiness are non-Christian works in chapter 32. I pointed out that works of holiness are Christian works when Clement refers to them in other chapters. And you're responding by telling me that we know that Christian works can't be in view, since Clement excludes them. But you're begging the question. The only way you can claim to know that Christian works wouldn't be excluded from justification is if you know that justification is *not* through faith alone. But that's the issue under discussion. You can't assume your conclusion in order to justify your conclusion. Again, if works of holiness are Christian works in other chapters of First Clement, why should we assume that they're non-Christian (faithless) works in chapter 32?"

Again, Christian works does not equal works of faith, and non-Christian does not equal faithless. You're positing a false dichotomy (to which I responded when I said that "holiness of heart" is not the same as "faith"). "Faith working in charity" does not mean that every good thing done by a faithful Christian is such a work.

"Again, all that you're doing is asserting your position without any evidence. If only faith is mentioned, it doesn't make sense to assume that works are meant to be included. If he wanted to refer to works of faith, he could have done so in the same manner in which he did it in chapter 31."

Again, that's an argument from silence. You have to *prove* that his silence means something. This is merely *asserting* it; therefore, you are the one refusing to present evidence. Again, the question is HOW faith acts as a means, and there is nothing in simply saying the word "faith" that says that it can't act as a means by causing works of charity. Thus, the burden is on you to *prove* that not using the term excludes works.

"What we have, then, is Clement *excluding* works of holiness, which are elsewhere described as Christian works, and only *including* faith, yet you want us to believe that Christian works are *included* and that "faith" means "faith and works". As I said before, by any reasonable standard you've lost this dispute."

That's something like an argument, but as I said, it begs the question. You've assumed (without proving) that Christian works are the same thing as works produced by faith working in charity. That inference is unwarranted. Therefore, the fact that Clement excludes holiness does not entail an exclusion of faith working in charity. So your argument that Clement actually excludes works in invalid.

That leaves you solely with an argument from *silence*. You are now arguing that mentioning faith and not mentioning works means that the way in which faith justifies cannot include works (remember, the question here is HOW faith justifies). Since you haven't *proved* that Clement's silence necessarily excludes works, you haven't carried your burden.

"You're turning logic on its head. Clement only mentions faith, and you want us to think that works are included, yet it's *my* responsibility to prove that works aren't in view?"

Exactly. You are making an argument from silence when you say Clement "only" mentions faith. Thus, the burden of proof is on you. Arguments from silence *always* bear the burden of proof. That's not turning logic on its head; that is simply an ordinary rule of argumentation. And besides, even though I didn't carry the burden on that issue, I actually proved that your interpretation was impossible by Clement's own words.

"No, what you've shown is that Clement refers to doing works of faith elsewhere. Nobody denies that fact. But when he refers to working righteousness through faith, he doesn't just say 'faith'. In chapter 32, on the other hand, he does just mention faith. You can't assume that works of faith are the same as faith just because both involve faith."

Now you've missed the point. He uses the identical construction in both cases: "through faith." Righteousness is wrought through faith, and God justifies through faith. My argument is that "through faith" is being used in the same way in both cases, and that "by faith" is the same as "through faith." So if we know that faith can act in producing righteousness, then it follows that faith can act in producing righteousness for justification as well.

"The question in chapter 33 comes just after Clement excluded works of holiness and mentioned faith as the receiver of justification. That question in chapter 33 makes sense as something that would come just after chapter 32 *if* chapter 32 has the meaning I've argued for. If your interpretation of chapter 32 motivates you to awkwardly apply the question of chapter 33 to something said further back, then that's just more evidence of the implausibility of your interpretation."

It doesn't. I'm saying that the entire three chapters could be read as an answer to a single question: how do we obtain the blessing of God? But as I said, even viewing Ch. 33 as a direct response to Ch. 32, it could be responding to an inference drawn as a mistaken interpretation just as easily as an inference drawn from a correct interpretation. It could simply be Clement explaining why blessing by works and blessing by faith is not a contradiction.

"No, all that I'm saying is that 'faith' means 'faith'. You're asserting that it includes works as well. You carry the burden of proof."

No, you're saying that "through faith" (HOW faith justifies) excludes works, and you are making that argument from silence. The burden of proof is yours.

"And as Christ doesn't become sinful, it makes sense that His righteousness is given in the same way. We don't actually become righteous in justification. We do become righteous in sanctification, but that occurs *after* our reconciliation with God. Mathetes is addressing the reconciliation. By your own admission, Jesus 'doesn't actually become sinful'. The most natural parallel would be for us to not actually become righteous in justification."

First, the only thing required for the analogy to be valid is that sin is actually taken away by the righteousness of Christ. It doesn't matter whether it actually goes to Christ; it merely has to be taken away while something else is given. Consequently, it's entirely irrelevant whether sin actually is imputed to Christ or not. Second, you've broken the analogy yourself by saying that we "become righteous in sanctification." From whence does that righteousness come, if not Christ? If the exchange of imputation is the exchange to which you refer, then how is it that we continue to receive righteousness even after the exchange?

"It's not a theme I've identified. Mathetes is the one who emphasizes the theme of God's kindness through the substitutionary work of Christ. To speak of Christ being our Substitute, while saying at the same time that we must work in order to attain His substitutionary work, is nonsensical doublespeak."

Fortunately, Catholics don't say that we must work in order to attain His substitutionary work. The salutary acts through which we are justified are entirely gratuitous and come in no way from ourselves, as the Canons of the Council of Orange make clear.

"We're discussing Galatians 3:2 and Ephesians 1:13-14. Paul refers to people receiving the Spirit Himself in Galatians 3:2, not just 'grace of the Holy Spirit', as you put it. In Galatians 3:6-9, Paul tells us that he's addressing *justification*, not some pre-baptismal reception of the grace of the Holy Spirit that occurs prior to justification. Ephesians 1:13 refers to being sealed in Christ. Those who have the Spirit are children of God (Romans 8:9-11, Galatians 4:6). You go on to quote Acts 19 referring to baptism, as if the fact that people are baptized contradicts my position. It doesn't. But Acts 19:2 does contradict your position, since it suggests that Paul considered it normative to receive the Spirit, the seal of salvation, at the time of faith, not at the time of baptism."

You're simply conflating things because they all mention the Holy Spirit. It certainly is receiving the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit works within us to do God's will. That's not the same thing as regeneration, it's not the same thing as being sealed by the Holy Spirit, it's not the same thing as becoming an adopted child of God, and it's not the same thing as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You can "receive" the Holy Spirit in lots of different ways.

"No, read Galatians 3:5-6. Paul describes how the Galatians received the Holy Spirit at the end of verse 5 ("by hearing with faith"). The next verse begins with the words "Even so", then cites Genesis 15:6. A direct comparison is being made between how the Galatians were justified and how Abraham was justified. Genesis 15:6 has no sacraments or works of any other type. Abraham just believes. Sola fide."

Sure, but Gal. 3:5 mentions that God "works miracles" by hearing with faith and not by works of the Law. Of course, I'm sure that somehow means that "be hearing with faith" can't include human action.

"No, if somebody misunderstands justification, it's not because he *can't* understand it. When Augustine disagrees with Roman Catholic theology, do you assume that he *couldn't* understand it?"

Sometimes. That's a pretty common reason for explaining where particular Fathers went wrong. Some things are hard, as the first Bishop of Rome put it. I note that Augustine is not wrong on the episcopacy or numerous other Catholic distinctives that are relatively straightforward. I don't think he's going to blow it on basic doctrines like the need for Christians to be baptized.

Not quite sure where you're going with St. Jerome. Mortal sin is intrinsically a denial of God, so I don't see where Jerome differs from any other Catholic on that point.

"Where does Eusebius say that Papias was 'influenced by spurious literature'?"

From the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on St. Papias:
"The cause of the loss of this precious work of an Apostolic Father was the chiliastic view which he taught, like St. Justin and St. Irenaeus. He supported this by 'strange parables of the Saviour and teachings of His, and other mythical matters', says Eusebius."
Interesting bits about Irenaeus and where the notion that Christ reached the age of 50 might be reached as well: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11457c.htm.

"So, you tell us that Papias, a disciple of John and contemporary of the apostles, misunderstood the eschatology taught by John. But if I say that Augustine, living a few hundred years after the time of the apostles, misunderstood Paul's soteriology, and I can document that Augustine misdefined the term 'justify', for example, you accuse me of being unreasonable.

Sure, because I'm discussing the interpretation of an obscure prophetic vision that even John may not have fully understood, and you are discussing one of the greatest Scriptural teachers of any age of missing something that is "frequently" and "clearly" discussed in Scripture. The former is reasonable; the latter is unreasonable.

"It doesn't matter whether the error was over a passage of scripture or something Jesus taught orally or some event in history. You said that it would be unreasonable to suggest that generally godly people could err on such important matters. But we know that generally godly people often *have* erred on important matters. I gave you example after example after example."

No, godly people can err, even on important matters, although the entire Church won't. My point is that they aren't going to err on something that is stated "frequently" and "clearly" in Scripture and that they aren't likely to err on important matters generally or in great numbers. But your standard of "importance" is not clear to me either.

"Let me use the example of the men on the road to Emmaus again. They seem to have been generally godly men. Yet, Jesus rebukes them as 'foolish' and 'slow of heart to believe' (Luke 24:25-26). Was He rebuking them for not understanding something that was unclear? No, He was rebuking them for not understanding something that they should have understood. Likewise, when the Galatians followed after a false gospel, Paul rebuked them for being "foolish" (Galatians 3:1). He didn't apologize for not being clear about the gospel. Rather, he held the Galatians responsible for departing from what was clear. And neither the men on the road to Emmaus nor the Galatians claimed to be abandoning God or abandoning the gospel. Rather, they continued to profess interest in God and the things pertaining to Him. They were wrong, but they were still religious. Likewise, the fact that a church father studied scripture, called himself a Christian, etc. doesn't prove that he wouldn't be able to err on a matter that's clear in scripture."

Erring is one thing; teaching clearly anathematized beliefs as the Gospel is another. ISTM pretty clear that these guys were being berated for not thinking and not consulting the teaching when they ought to have ("Didn't the bell ever go off that this was an error?"). That is a far cry from someone actually thoughtfully considering the contents of the faith and the Scripture and consciously teaching a contrary position to one "frequently" and "clearly" taught in Scripture. Does Paul have any mercy for the Judaizers who *taught* the error consciously? Read Gal. 5:12; the answer is "no way!"

Let's leave Catholicism alone, because your misinterpretations of it aren't going to help establish your point to me. Even if I were being entirely hypocritical (which I'm not, BTW), that wouldn't in the least bit undermine my criticism of you. It's a red herring from the perspective of defending your own argument.

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

And because you evidently never tire of being wrong:

"The Biblical commandments against murder are applicable to abortion and murdering a person with a gun, even though scripture doesn't mention abortion or guns. The canon of scripture isn't listed anywhere in scripture, but the principles leading to the canon are there."

It's a shame that these "principles" weren't obvious to Christianity at any point in its history, making your assertion here entirely unhistorical.


"We have to distinguish between inevitable doctrinal developments and developments that aren't inevitable. The reason why the acorn/oak analogy is so influential is because it carries with it the concept of inevitability. An acorn, under normal circumstances, does grow into an oak tree. That's natural growth. The problem with what Roman Catholic apologists are doing is that they're applying imagery of inevitability to processes that aren't inevitable."

First, you can't tell from looking at the acorn what the final form of the tree is going to be. Second, the claim is that it develops by a definite *process*, not that it develops "inevitably" in whatever sense you are asserting.

"If I say that Jesus has DNA, that's a logical conclusion following from the Biblical doctrine of His full manhood. But if I say that Jesus had six fingers on His right hand, that conclusion doesn't logically follow from anything Jesus and the apostles taught. A human can have six fingers on a hand, but it's not necessary or even normative. To put Jesus having six fingers in the same category as Jesus having DNA, on the basis that our understanding of both concepts developed over time, is nonsensical. Both concepts did develop over time, but the DNA concept is a natural growth of something Jesus and the apostles taught, whereas the six fingers concept isn't."

Why can you not understand the difference between "no reason for something" and "a reason that I don't find persuasive?"


"The Christian canon of scripture developed out of Biblical principles such as the authority of the apostles and the precedent of God's sovereignty in bringing His people to recognize the Old Testament canon. We can examine the internal and external evidence for the apostolicity of the books included in the canon, and we can cite a large number of reasons to trust the Christian consensus that developed over the 27-book New Testament. (The Old Testament consensus was among the Jews, not the early Christians.)"

Reasons to trust the consensus? The fact that the consensus itself was not enough just proves how hopelessly inconsistent your methodology is. The fact that you're looking for a (non-existent) Jewish consensus proves the point even more pointedly.

"We have no such reason to accept a development like the papacy or the sinlessness of Mary. Not only do such concepts not grow naturally from anything Jesus and the apostles taught, but they're actually contradictory to what was taught by the apostolic and early post-apostolic Christians."

You mean like sola scriptura, sola fide, congregationalism, denial of the real presence, denial of the apostolic succession, and all of those other contradictions to what was taught by apostolic and early post-apostolic Christians? Remove the log already! By your standard for a natural development, creedal Christianity doesn't exist.


"You mentioned the inconsistency in the Christian rule of faith over time. But nobody should expect there to be consistency. We're not living under the same circumstances that people were living under when Jesus and the apostles were walking the earth. Adam and Eve not only didn't have any scriptures, but also didn't have any Pope, magisterium, or church. We don't assume that we today therefore should live in the same manner. We're not living under the same circumstances as Adam and Eve."

See, there was this thing called Pentecost. You claim to be Christian, so you might want to familiarize yourself with the founding of the Church.


"Roman Catholic apologists will often make vague references to oral tradition, as if any Divinely inspired oral communication is equivalent to their concept of oral tradition. But when Jesus and the apostles were walking the earth and teaching orally, were they delivering oral tradition in the same way that Roman Catholics think it's delivered today? No. Jesus and the apostles didn't have to meet any modern Roman Catholic standards for speaking infallibly. They didn't have to be addressing the church as a whole, meeting in council, etc. There is no modern Roman Catholic equivalent to Jesus and the apostles walking the earth and teaching people orally with the same authority as scripture."

Yeah, that's because they were Jesus and the Apostles, and the Pope and bishops are not, nor do they claim to be.

"Neither side of this dispute, Catholics or Evangelicals, is living as if they're in the same circumstances as the first century Christians. Both sides agree that public revelation ceased with the death of the apostles. The question is what material we have today that can be identified as apostolic. We have many good reasons to accept the Biblical canon as apostolic. We don't have sufficient reason to consider the Roman Catholic system of authority or the doctrines it teaches apostolic."

"Good" being "agrees with my ecclesial system," and "sufficient" being "convenient for my ecclesial system." But still, you're defining "apostolic" as if you apply some external historical test to determine whether the doctrine originated with the apostles, as if every doctrine has to clear some historical hurdle dependent on human opinion. That's nonsensical as a workable Christian ecclesiology, and even if it weren't, you apply it horribly inconsistently. The evidence for apostolic succession as compared to sola scriptura makes your case implausible on its face.

 
At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan,

We were having a discussion at reformedcatholicism.com, and you moved it here. I didn't want to bring a discussion to yet another forum, but I chose to respond to you here anyway. I told you that I didn't have much time to spend here. Despite what I told you about my time constraints, you've chosen to take yet another of my discussions in another forum and move it here, this time a discussion that didn't even involve you. I'm not going to respond. What I'm going to do is reply to your most recent comments relevant to our original discussion, then I'm going to move on. This is my last response.

You said:

"And the question is *how* faith acts as a means. Does it act as a means just by being there (as you are arguing)? Does it act as a means by working in love (as I am arguing)?"

Faith isn't equivalent to work. If faith motivates people to work, then faith is involved, but something more than faith is occurring. What you're arguing is that Clement is implying the process of working in faith by mentioning only faith. But nothing in the term "faith" logically leads to that conclusion. You're reading it into the text. The more natural meaning of "faith" is "faith", not "faith working in love".

"Your point about further blessings being 'attained through both faith and works' is necessarily false if you are arguing that justification is not by works."

You keep using phrases like "impossible" and "necessarily false" when describing my view, even though you aren't doing anything to prove that my view is such. The fact that justification is attained apart from works does nothing to make it "necessarily false" that further blessings are attained through works.

"Moreover, it contradicts Clement's expressed point, which is that the blessings given to Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac were gratuitous and not given as a reward for works either."

Clement makes that comment with regard to the *origin* of the blessings. They originate in the will of God. The fact that Clement excludes works from the origin of blessings while including them as a means of attaining blessings doesn't prove that he was referring to two different types of work. Rather, he was addressing two different subjects. The works are the same, but the subjects are different (the origin of blessings and the means by which we attain them).

"Because someone could assume that Clement was contradicting himself (as you did) when he said that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were justified by works and faith."

If Clement's reference to "faith" in chapter 32 is referring to "faith working in love", as you argue, then why would Clement think that anybody would conclude that he's excluding faith working in love? My argument is that Clement had just excluded works of faith at the end of chapter 32. Your argument is that he had just told people that they're justified through works of faith. Now, whose interpretation of chapter 32 makes more sense of the question that opens chapter 33? Mine does. If works of faith were just excluded from justification, then it makes sense for Clement to say that people shouldn't neglect works of faith as a result.

"Either one makes sense. It could be directed at a mistake in interpretation every bit as much as an inference drawn from a correct position."

My interpretation is more natural. Under my interpretation, Clement is responding to an implication of what he had just said. Under your interpretation, Clement is assuming that people will misunderstand him, then he's responding to a question based on that misunderstanding. Once again, you're rejecting the probable meaning of the text in favor of a less likely interpretation. It tells us something when you have to do so as often as you have.

If Clement thought that people might misunderstand him to be teaching justification through faith alone, when he actually wasn't, then why did he exclude works of holiness and only use the word "faith" at the close of chapter 32 in describing how to attain justification? If he held your view, he could have just repeated the phrase he used in chapter 31 regarding faith working in righteousness. Instead, you want us to believe that he used two misleading phrases (excluding works of holiness and including only a reference to faith), then wrote some further comments to respond to a misunderstanding people might have as a result of the misleading terminology he could easily have avoided. What you keep doing is proposing less natural interpretations to try to avoid the most natural reading of the text.

"Again, Christian works does not equal works of faith, and non-Christian does not equal faithless. You're positing a false dichotomy"

No, the problem is that you're misdefining the terms I was using. I wasn't using "Christian works" in the sense of a Christian person doing works, regardless of the type of work. Rather, I was using "Christian works" in the sense of works that are Christian in quality. They would be works of faith. You haven't addressed the point I was making. You've criticized me, incorrectly, based on your misconception of the term "Christian works", but you haven't addressed the point I was making. I ask again, if works of holiness are Christian works (works of faith) elsewhere in First Clement, then why are we supposed to think that they're non-Christian works (works without faith) in chapter 32?

"If the exchange of imputation is the exchange to which you refer, then how is it that we continue to receive righteousness even after the exchange?"

Because there's more to the Christian life than justification. Mathetes is addressing reconciliation with God, so I don't expect sanctification to be at the forefront.

"Fortunately, Catholics don't say that we must work in order to attain His substitutionary work. The salutary acts through which we are justified are entirely gratuitous and come in no way from ourselves, as the Canons of the Council of Orange make clear."

Roman Catholicism teaches that the works are from God, but that the works also involve the effort of the person doing them. Even if works originate with God, there's no reason for them to be a means of attaining justification. If a person trusts Christ for justification, it makes no sense to claim that Christ's work is sufficient while saying, at the same time, that the person must wait until works are added to that faith before being justified. Faith would be necessary because there has to be a relationship in order for reconciliation to occur between two personal entities. But once that relationship has been established through faith, why would works have to be added before justification occurs?

"You can 'receive' the Holy Spirit in lots of different ways."

We know that receiving the Spirit is associated with justification. A person can receive the Spirit after justification in unusual circumstances, such as we see in some passages in Acts. But where does scripture refer to people receiving the Spirit *before* justification? Are you saying that all of these people in the passages I've cited had something occur at the time of faith that *sounds* like justification, but actually isn't?

In Acts 19:2, Paul assumes that these people believed. Thus, he asks them what happened *when* they believed. So, Paul is assuming that belief occurred, which would involve the work of the Holy Spirit. If he knew that the Holy Spirit had been at work, then why would he ask whether the Holy Spirit had been *received*? He asks because he's not referring to whether the Spirit did some work in their lives. Rather, he's asking about the reception of the Spirit as he describes in Romans 8:9-11, Galatians 4:6, etc. To ask somebody whether they received the Spirit in the sense of the Spirit doing work in their life would be absurd, since the Spirit is frequently doing work in every human's life (John 16:8). Paul has to be referring to the reception of the Spirit Himself, not just having the Spirit work in your life. And the reception of the Spirit Himself is associated with justification.

In Galatians 3:2, Paul is addressing justification. From 2:11 through 3:2 and beyond, Paul is discussing how people are justified, not how they receive some non-justifying work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit's work begins *before* faith occurs. Thus, when Paul refers to receiving the Spirit (not the work of the Spirit) through faith, he has to be referring to something other than just having the Spirit work in your life. We know from the context that he's discussing how justification is attained. And he goes on in 4:6 to associate receiving the Spirit with justification.

In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul refers to "salvation", "inheritance", and "redemption". He's not discussing how we receive the non-justifying work of the Spirit in our lives. He's discussing how we attain justification, in which the Spirit seals us for the day of redemption.

"Not quite sure where you're going with St. Jerome. Mortal sin is intrinsically a denial of God, so I don't see where Jerome differs from any other Catholic on that point."

Jerome says that even those who have died in sin will be saved, because they had faith. He names three categories of people in Hell, and Christians who committed mortal sin aren't among them. That's not Roman Catholic soteriology. According to you, we attain and maintain justification through works of faith. According to Jerome, you can die in sin, yet still be saved because you had placed your faith in Christ at some point. He doesn't mention "faith and works". He mentions "faith".

"From the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on St. Papias"

Nothing in your citation of the Catholic Encyclopedia refers to Papias being misled by "spurious literature". You still haven't documented your claim, which means you still haven't explained why Papias and the other early fathers were premillennialists.

"I'm discussing the interpretation of an obscure prophetic vision that even John may not have fully understood"

Papias doesn't say that he's relying on a speculation about something obscure. He says that he received premillennialism from apostolic tradition. Irenaeus not only cites Papias making such comments, but also cites other associates of the apostle John saying the same sort of thing (Against Heresies, 5:33:3-4).

"you are discussing one of the greatest Scriptural teachers of any age of missing something that is 'frequently' and 'clearly' discussed in Scripture."

And you're accusing multiple disciples of the apostle John of misunderstanding multiple statements made about a future kingdom on earth. No matter how obscure you want to claim the book of Revelation is, these disciples of John claimed to have statements from Jesus and the apostles, not just what's recorded in Revelation.

"Does Paul have any mercy for the Judaizers who *taught* the error consciously?"

Paul and the Judaizers weren't the only ones involved. The Galatian Christians were involved as well. And if they could be wrong about the gospel, so could believers in future generations.

Jason Engwer
http://members.aol.com/jasonte
New Testament Research Ministries
http://www.ntrmin.org

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

"We were having a discussion at reformedcatholicism.com, and you moved it here. I didn't want to bring a discussion to yet another forum, but I chose to respond to you here anyway. I told you that I didn't have much time to spend here. Despite what I told you about my time constraints, you've chosen to take yet another of my discussions in another forum and move it here, this time a discussion that didn't even involve you. I'm not going to respond. What I'm going to do is reply to your most recent comments relevant to our original discussion, then I'm going to move on. This is my last response."

If I were you, I would make an excuse and run as well, which is entirely typical of your MO. It never fails that you run out of time when you have no answer. If your time is so precious, I don't even know why you bothered with that non-response; there is no sense in repeating your arguments if you aren't going to interact with the opponent's arguments or provide any new explanatory value. Regardless, it's provided yet another example of you cutting and running when a Catholic has beaten you. In fact, I am so confident that every one of your points was addressed in my *last* response that I am not even going to draft a new one. This is yet another example of your refusal to be held accountable for the ridiculous things that you say in public fora. You started this with your ill-informed posturing about patristics on RefCath, and now that you've made your bed, you don't want to lie in it. That's fine by me; it just shows how completely implausible and unhistorical your view is.

 

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