Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Continuing Dialogue with Observer

[This post will continue the dialogue with "Observer" begun here.]

I'll put Observer's words in blue, and any previous responses I made in red. This reply is in black.

Remember, I stated we were focusing on initial justification from the Catholic perspective. If you will not grant that initial justification is by faith alone there is no sense to discuss the judgment at the eschaton. ...
Yes, and we can discuss perseverance of the saints or final justification( I’m speaking as a Catholic) later. I was trying to stick to initial justification. Is initial justification by faith alone is the issue before us.

>> The point is that there's no difference between initial justification and ongoing justification in that respect. It's all by faith working in charity. Justification is justification.

Actually a number of the passages says more than we are justified by faith, but they also say not of works. Furthermore, I don’t see how it can be argued that many of those passages could be interpreted as the works faith creates when they are actually arguing against works in justification. ...
You don’t have to show me that faith produces works, because I already affirm that.

>> My argument is that they aren't excluding works generally. St. Paul is using the term in a particular way, and it isn't a general reference to all human action. Faith justifies by producing works (ordinarily).

"Where we disagree is on the "not by works" interpretation. In that respect, I've given an argument for why this refers to works of human effort and not faith working in charity."

I’m assuming you meant "*not* works of human effort but faith working in charity"? If so, I’m not trying to be uncivil or mean, but giving an argument does not mean it is a good or convincing one. Your main point seem to be if a person is doing any activity while believing than this is an act of charity and rules out faith alone. You make this argument once again down below and I will address there. I know the last post was long, but I did address this argument there also in a number of places.

>> You've interpreted by statement correctly (viz., the "works" in "not by works" refers to human effort). And my point is not that any activity done by a faithful person is faith working in charity. Certain works are justifying, and which works depends on the person and the circumstances. Normatively, initial justification is by baptism.

"The act of charity was touching the hem of Jesus's robe in the former case (caritas includes love of God). Obviously, the paralyzed man could do little but believe, although presumably, he wished to be lowered to touch Jesus."

So your position equates to anything you are doing while believing constitutes an act of charity. In the case of the woman it was her touching Jesus’ garment. In the case of the paralyzed it his desired to be lowered. In the case of the wretched tax collector I guess you could say it was confession. Like I said in the other post, faith alone does not mean you have to be dormant with the right thoughts in your head. Based on your reasoning Paul argument is a non sequitur when he proves that Abraham was justified before circumcision. In other words, the Jews could forcefully argue that circumcision was the act of charity.
Initially I said:"Well, why did Paul go out his way to show that circumcision was not needed to be joined with faith as the means of justification?"

>> It's not a non sequitur, because Paul is contrasting the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. The view of the Old Covenant is that the Law brings people into communion with God, first by entering into the covenant through circumcision, then by abiding in the Law afterward. The reason Paul focuses on Abraham's circumcision in particular is not because it's human action but because it is the initiation into the people of the Law. IOW, circumcision is the most important example that Paul could pick. If Abraham could be declared righteous before he was even under the Law, that proves that the Law is not the means of righteousness.

Likewise one who walks the isle to confess Christ could equally argue that is their act of charity produced by faith. Or even the confession itself. We know the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10 if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord than you shall be saved. Why is this confession with the mouth a sufficient act of charity for justification?

>> Sure, but whether it is or not has nothing to do with whether the person can argue that it's produced by charity. It only matters whether the act is actually a gift of God's grace (Christ working through you) or not. In particular cases, namely the Sacraments, God has promised that He will be present to provide a sure sign for the faithful. That's the normative case, although there are obviously exceptions in particular cases (Abraham, Christ's miracles, etc.).

And BTW, if you read Romans 10:10 as strictly as you do, then it is contradictory, since it says one is justified by believing and saved by confessing. If you believe in sola fide, justification and salvation come as one piece, so it would be contradictory. I would simply go with the interpretations that belief and confession are part of the process by which one is justified and one is saved; Paul isn't referring to the actual instants that these actions take place.

"But I think He was talking about their acts of charity produced by faith. In fact, I can do better than think it; I can show it:[citing Luke 8:43-48]. The healing power did not go out from Jesus until He was touched (the act of faith)."

I think you are confusing the physical healing with the spiritual healing. The physical healing is used to demonstrate that Jesus has the authority to provide the Spiritual healing and vindicate His claims about who He is.
>> But the physical healing is a true sign of the spiritual healing. The sign and the thing signified aren't separated either here or in the Sacraments. Why would one think that they are separate, apart from its convenience for rationalizing sola fide?

Why couldn’t the act of faith have been her desire to touch Jesus? Or any of her acts right up to the point of touching him? Who can know what act of charity will be the means to their justification in your system?

>> It could have been, but it wasn't in that case. We have normative acts of charity in the Sacraments, so that the faithful have a sure sign to know what acts of charity are the means of justification. It's always possible that there would be other justifying acts, but with the Sacraments, it's not ordinarily the case.

Initally:"However, faith alone does not mean one is motionless thinking the right thoughts, normally individuals will be engage in some sort of activity. You therefore conclude that the activity one is engaged in is therefore an act of charity and this rules out faith alone. JP:"Correct." Response:Yes, but it doesn’t follow as I have pointed out a number of times. If this is what disproves faith alone then I don’t know anyone that believes in it. With your broad definition of works of charity then everyone is committing a work of charity at initial belief which makes me wonder why you would call baptism the ordinary work of charity.

>> Not every act performed by a faithful person is a work of charity, so not every act is justifying. Simply believing is ordinarily NOT a work of charity; it requires something else to complete it (ordinarily baptism). I should have been clearer on that point; I was agreeing that faith normally produces activity, and that works of charity are *always* acts produced in this way, but not every act performed by a faithful person is an act of charity. That is determined by God's grace alone.

Well, I don’t think James changes anything in this regard. James is discussing how those who are justified demonstrate that they are. Once again this fits with everything I have been saying. If you are contending that James is dealing with initial justification then I think you will have major problems with the examples that he uses(i.e. Abraham ) to prove his point.

>> I perceive no problem for Catholicism. James speaks of his justification in faithfully offering his son on the altar. Abraham was also justified when he left his homeland at God's command (Hebr. 11:8-10) and by sustained belief in God's promises (Rom 4:16-22). These multiple declarations of righteousness are quite in line with Catholic thinking.

Initially I said:"I agree that the Old Covenant sacraments are not the New Covenant sacraments, however would you not equally classify the sacrament of circumcision as an act of charity just as you consider baptism an act of charity."
JP:It could be, but it isn't necessarily so (IOW, one could be circumcised with an uncircumcised heart). It is unlike baptism where there is an explicit promise of regeneration and the remission of [s]ins.
Response:Well of course I believe the same is true for baptism. Someone who doesn’t have faith could be baptized, would you still say they are born again? Remember without faith it is impossible to please God. As far as the explicit promise, there are also explicit promises for circumcision and many more for faith, but that never stopped anyone from looking at them in context of all of the Scriptures.

>> None of those other things promise regeneration and remission of sins, though. And yes, I believe that a valid baptism (not performed as a sham, but truly the act of the Church) confers grace, and even if someone produces an internal obstacle to that grace (which would be an odd scenario indeed), the grace is truly conferred and becomes effective once that obstacle is removed. That's what a true sign (sacramentum) of grace means.

I quoted [Romans 8] v8 which speaks of those "controlled by the sinful nature" not being able to please God. In that chapter it is speaking of two classes of men, unregenerate and regenerate. The unregenerate cannot please God. This is basically saying the same thing as without faith it is impossible to please God.

>> I don't see where the passages necessarily equates regeneration with being in the Spirit. It says that those who are in the Spirit will do good, and those who are not in the Spirit cannot do good, but it doesn't say that only those who have the indwelling of the Spirit (the regenerate) are "in the Spirit." The Spirit acts in a number of ways and can even give faith without regenerating, so the two things aren't necessarily connected. In fact, this passage actually shows that the Spirit can be drive out of those who are regenerated ("... if in fact the Spirit dwells in you" is spoken to born-again believers).

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