Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 6
We are coming to the end of our review of the Tim Challies article, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. There is one more point to examine, but before we get to that I want to disclose something I discovered in my research for this series. The very same canons from the Sixth Council of Trent that Challies uses for his evaluation in his article are the same ones found evaluated in this article. Since I could not find any publication date on it, I cannot determine who wrote their article first. I’ll let you compare them for yourself and come to your own conclusion on that, but it certainly does make one scratch their head. At any rate, it does serve to reinforce the notion that Reformed talking points run far and wide.
The Protestant Reformation is probably the biggest farce that has ever been perpetrated on Christianity. That farce lives on with help from the likes of Tim Challies and writings such as the one under evaluation here. Whether or not his misrepresentation is purposeful or he is simply just confused himself, it doesn’t excuse him from being complicit in the deception of the thousands of laity who look to him daily for their interpretation of reality. Elders are to be above reproach, and there is certainly much in his own writing that can be cause for reproach.
So then let’s get on with our examination of point number six. Once again, I have included the quote from the canons of the Sixth Council of Trent so that we may consider them alongside Challies’ own rejection of Catholic doctrine.
“If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema. (Canon 33)”
“This is the heart of the issue, isn’t it? The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, as laid out by the Council of Trent, and as systematized in the canons, does that very thing—it diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. It adds to Christ’s work. To add anything to Christ’s work is to destroy it altogether.”
This is Martin Luther’s “Theology of the Cross” plain and simple. It is the “cross story” vs. the “glory story”. Challies might have just as well quoted from Luther directly.
Thesis 22: That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.
…This has already been said. Because men do not know the cross and hate it, they necessarily love the opposite, namely, wisdom, glory, power, and so on. Therefore they become increasingly blinded and hardened by such love, for desire cannot be satisfied by the acquisition of those things which it desires. Just as the love of money grows in proportion to the increase of the money itself, so the dropsy of the soul becomes thirstier the more it drinks, as the poet says: »The more water they drink, the more they thirst for it.« The same thought is expressed in Eccles. 1:8: »The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.« This holds true of all desires.
Thesis 24: He, however, who has emptied himself (cf. Phil. 2:7) through suffering no longer does works but knows that God works and does all things in him. For this reason, whether God does works or not, it is all the same to him. He neither boasts if he does good works, nor is he disturbed if God does not do good works through him. He knows that it is sufficient if he suffers and is brought low by the cross in order to be annihilated all the more. It is this that Christ says in John 3:7, »You must be born anew.« To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I say, means to feel death at hand.
In the above-cited Heidelberg Disputation, Luther contended that man’s desire to do works only feeds “the glory story,” or the story of man. In Luther’s construct, ALL reality is interpreted through two stories: the glory story (the story of man), and the cross story (the story of redemption). Giving any credence to the works or the belief that man can perform good works only contributes to the story of man and his glory. This includes believers! When Challies claims that the Catholic doctrine of justification diminishes the glory of God and the merits of Jesus Christ and adds to Christ’s work, that’s Luther’s “glory story” and not the “cross story”.
And he is exactly right; that is the heart of the issue. It was what the reformation was all about. It was a battle over “infused grace” vs. the obedience of Christ in our place. But the dirty little secret is that it was an argument over those things with regard to progressive justification, which the reformers never denied and actually upheld. The dispute was simply over the means. Authentic Protestantism saw no difference between justification and sanctification. It saw sanctification as the means by which justification was preserved, not the means in which we bring glory to our Father through good works.
This is what is meant when reformed teachers uses phrases like, “sanctification is the growing part of salvation,” or, “the same gospel that saves you sanctifies you.” It reveals their belief that justification is a process. But unlike Catholicism, that process is maintained by “faith alone”. It is why they view works in such a derogatory manner, because works diminish the “cross story”. They diminish the “work” that Christ does in maintaining the believer’s declared righteousness. “Christ’s work” is not simply His “work” on the cross. “Work” in their construct is a collective term that encompasses all of the tasks that Christ performs, including an active obedience to the law continually imputed to the believer, so that when God looks at you, all He sees is Christ. But if at any time you believe that any work you did originated with you, you rob Christ of His glory and make it your own, “destroying it altogether.”
What this all boils down to is that the whole argument over works vs. “faith alone” is a distraction from the real issue. We are lead to believe that it is an argument over justification. We are left to assume that Protestant’s believe that justification is a one-time event. But the real debate of the Reformation was an argument over the means of maintaining justification.
No wonder so many Christians are confused. I myself could not understand why obedience in the Christian life was looked upon so negatively by my reformed pastor and elders, when all of scripture clearly stated that believers are to obey. I had no problem understanding and making the distinction that it had nothing to do with me trying to stay justified. I wanted to obey because I loved my Father. But now that I understand the way authentic Protestantism regards works as well as their take on progressive justification, it all makes so much more sense now. And what I find is that with practice, the duplicity and doublespeak become so much easier to spot.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:15-16