Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 4
We continue on in our review of an article written by Tim Challies in 2014 entitled, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. It is not a direct polemic on Catholic orthodoxy. Rather, he has selected certain points to consider where Catholicism disagrees with Protestantism. It is a rather slick approach, because he provides no argument for either side, neither seeking to disprove why the Catholic rejection is wrong, nor seeking to prove why the Protestant belief is correct. He simply declares that Catholics reject what he believes.
As we work our way through this series, we are beginning to see a recurring theme. It is the classic dispute between works vs. “faith alone”. But the more we examine these statements, the Protestant equivocation becomes more and more apparent. The authentic Protestant doctrine of “faith-alone” justification is not what most Protestant laity think it is, and those in “authority” within the walls of the institution are perfectly happy to let them continue to assume this misunderstanding.
Challies’ fourth point draws from Canon 24 of the Sixth Council of Trent of January 13, 1547 [i].
“If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. (Canon 24)”
“I believe that good works—works that bring glory to God—are the fruit and proof of justification. I deny that they are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation. (Gal 3:1-3, Gal 5:1-3)”
Stop right there! Challies has just given himself away! Read that last sentence again. “I deny that they [good works] are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation.” In his own statement, Challies has not denied that justification is increased and preserved. Let me say that again. Challies has NOT denied that justification is increased and preserved. He denies that good works are the cause of it. The implication is clear that something causes the increase and preservation of justification, but it’s not good works. That’s progressive justification.
When it comes right down to it, that was the only dispute regarding the Reformation. Calvin and Luther never denied that justification was an on-going process. They only disputed the means. For the Catholics, good works are what maintains one’s righteous standing. But for the Protestants, it is “faith alone” that increases and preserves justification. This is the only point of contention between Protestantism and Catholicism, not whether or not justification is progressive, only the means by which it is maintained.
But to be clear, good works vs. “faith alone” is not the issue; it is a distraction. The truth is that justification is a FINISHED work. It needs no increasing or preservation, period; by good works, “faith-alone”, or anything else. A person’s new creaturehood that results from the new birth is the basis for one’s justification. The new creature is not under the jurisdiction of the law, therefore there is no sin. He is the righteous offspring of God his Father. He is free to perform good works without fear of condemnation, not to increase or preserve his justification, but rather as the means by which he demonstrates his love to God and to others. It is what he is called to do. And there are rewards in heaven that await him to the degree that he is faithful in performing those works.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” ~ Ephesians 2:10
“That the man of God may be perfect [mature, complete], throughly furnished unto all good works.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:17
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” ~ Titus 3:8
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” ~ Hebrews 10:24
“Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:8
“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:14
“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,” ~
“Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” ~ Colossians 3:24
“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” ~ 2 John 1:8
Protestants are the last people on earth that should be talking about works. Good works, as defined by Challies, are “works that bring glory to God.” Sounds good, but he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, because Protestantism doesn’t believe that any man can do any good works, even saved ones. Any good works we do are only experienced by us. It is Christ performing the good works through us. If at any moment we begin to think we actually did the work, we have denied Christ and put justification at risk. Luther stated in his Heidelberg Disputation that if anyone believed he could do a good work, it was an unpardonable sin. “Faith alone” means a continual recognition that we cannot do any good works, and it is this recognition that keeps us justified.
The doublespeak is clear in Challies’ reply to Canon 24. “I believe that good works—works that bring glory to God—are the fruit and proof of justification…” – Sure, because it is not us doing the works but us experiencing the works performed by Christ through us. “…I deny that they are in any way the cause of justification’s increase and preservation..” – Of course, since we cannot perform any good works, we must rely by “faith alone” on the works of Christ to be performed through us continually in order to increase and preserve our justification.
We could end here and not have to look at this article any further. Anything that Challies or any other Protestant/Reformed elitist says from this point forward is irrelevant. Their gospel is false! It is progressive justification regardless of what they say. Their own words have given them away, and here is the proof. Nevertheless, there are still two more points to consider, and we will look at point number five in the next article.