Paul's Passing Thoughts

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 9, 2016

This is part one of a six part series.
Click here for part two.
Click here for part three.
Click here for part four.
Click here for part five.
Click here for Part Six.

For quite some time now, Paul’s Passing Thoughts has been saying that Protestants are the most confused group of people in the world.   They are the ones who have no idea what they believe about the gospel. Catholics on the other hand might believe a false gospel, but at least they are honest about what they believe.

I actually think Tim Challies has done us a great service. He wrote an article back in 2014 in which he attempts to show how Catholics disagree with what he believes.   But what it ironically ends up being is an indictment against Protenstantism. No one should any longer be able to come to us here at PPT and say we are misrepresenting Protestantism or Reformed theology. Challies has unwittingly made the case for us in his own words. He has provided several points of Catholic orthodoxy for us to consider. But I think it is ironic, because in his effort to show where Catholic orthodoxy rejects what he believes, it has given us an insight into just how much Protestantism actually agrees with Catholicism.

In this post, we will examine the first statement from the article, and other points will be considered in subsequent posts. From the article, point number one:

Catholicism declares –
“If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. (Canon 9)”

We understand what is meant by the Roman Catholic Church in this regard. And I have spoken also with Catholic friends (even Eastern Orthodox) who will maintain that indeed this is what is taught by their church: that salvation begins with faith (beginning justification) and is maintained by works throughout their lives (progressive justification). It is by the performing of the sacraments that such maintaining of justification is accomplished (infant baptism, eucharist, confirmation, reconciliation/confession, anointing of the sick, marriage, holy orders[1]).

Now let’s take a look at Challies’ response

“I believe that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required and nothing else needs to be cooperated with, to obtain the grace of justification. Rome understands exactly what I believe here and rejects it. (Rom 3:20-28, Eph 2:8)”

He’s right.  Rome understands exactly what he means!  The problem is that Protestants don’t understand what he means.  At first glance it seems like a reasonable response with which you or I could agree, but his statement is disingenuous at best.   Why? Because Challies fails to point out one critical aspect. The Catholic statement on justification clearly suggests progressive justification. Something else (in addition to faith) is needed to be justified. For the Catholic, that “something else” is works through the performance of the sacraments, and these are performed over one’s lifetime. As these works are done, justification is maintained.

Challies neglects to point this out. He simply says it is faith and nothing else. This is very nuanced. In so doing, he allows his reader to assume that he is talking about justification as being a one-time event. He fails to mention that the Reformed doctrine of “faith alone” must be lived out continuously throughout the Christian life. If at any time a person ceases to live by faith alone, if he attempts to perform any works, he puts his salvation in jeopardy. Any works performed would only serve to condemn because this would be an attempt to merit righteousness. This was the major point of contention of the Reformation. Both Luther and Calvin state as much in their writings.

“Still, however, while we walk in the ways of the Lord, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lest we should become unduly elated and forget ourselves, we have still remains of imperfection which serve to keep us humble: “There is no man who sinneth not,” says the Scripture (1Kgs 8:46). What righteousness can men obtain by their works?” ~ Calvin[2]

“First, I say, that the best thing which can be produced by them is always tainted and corrupted by the impurity of the flesh, and has, as it were, some mixture of dross in it. Let the holy servant of God, I say, select from the whole course of his life the action which he deems most excellent, and let him ponder it in all its parts; he will doubtless find in it something that saviors of the rottenness of the flesh since our alacrity in well-doing is never what it ought to be, but our course is always retarded by much weakness. Although we see that the stains by which the works of the righteous are blemished, are by no means unapparent, still, granting that they are the minutest possible, will they give no offense to the eye of God, before which even the stars are not clean?  We thus see, that even saints cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation.” ~ Calvin[3]

“Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the church (2Cor 5:18,19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death, i.e., ablution, satisfaction expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, “but by grace are ye saved,”  “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8,9).” ~ Calvin[4]

“It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.

“The law wills that man despair of his own ability, for it »leads him into hell« and »makes him a poor man« and shows him that he is a sinner in all his works, as the Apostle does in Rom. 2 and 3:9, where he says, »I have already charged that all men are under the power of sin.« However, he who acts simply in accordance with his ability and believes that he is thereby doing something good does not seem worthless to himself, nor does he despair of his own strength. Indeed, he is so presumptuous that he strives for grace in reliance on his own strength” ~ Luther[5]

“Theologically and more universally all must learn to say, “I am a sinner” and likewise never to stop saying it until Christ’s return makes it no longer true….The fundamental question of the Disputation is how to arrive at that righteousness that will enable us to stand before God” ~ Luther[6]

What Challies actually believes along with the rest of those of the Reformed Protestant tradition, is that a person not only receives salvation by justification by faith alone, but that salvation is maintained by faith alone in sanctification.

Furthermore, notice the use of the term “sinner”. Again, the reader is allowed to assume that a “sinner” is an unsaved person. But there again is the nuance. Both Catholics and Protestants teach that ALL men are sinners, even saved ones! (“Sinners saved by grace.”) In fact, in his introductory remarks at the beginning of the article, Challies states,

“We [Protestants and Catholics] agree on the problem: we are sinful people who have alienated ourselves from God and are thus in need of salvation. But we disagree in very significant ways as to how sinful people can receive that salvation.”

Challies acknowledges that he agrees with Catholics on this point.  And there is no distinction made as to who exactly the “sinful people” are here.  There is nothing specified as to who the “we” is referring.  It is clear that he includes himself and believers in that equation.  It stands to reason then that if believers are still “sinners” then they are in constant need of justification.  He says so himself in that very statement.  Salvation/justification therefore must be ongoing (progressive) in this construct.

I submit that there is ONLY one difference between Catholics and Protestants. Both believe in a progressive justification, but the dispute revolves around what happens afterward, how it is maintained. While Catholics believe it is maintained by works, Protestants believe it is originated AND maintained by “faith alone” as well. In either case, salvation is made to be a process instead of a finished work.

In this regard, Challies is exactly right. Catholics do not believe what he believes and indeed rejects it. But I would wager that if most of his readers and followers, to wit, most of Christianity, were honest with themselves and discovered what Protestantism really teaches about justification, they would reject it as well.

In part two of this series we will examine Challies’ second point from his article.

Andy


[1] http://study.com/academy/lesson/the-7-catholic-sacraments-definition-history-quiz.html

[2] John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion edited by Henry Beveridge, pg 502

[3] ibid Pg 508

[4] ibid, pg 509

[5] The Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis 18

[6] ibid

If There is Any Gospel Centrality It’s the Spirit and NOT Christ

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 24, 2015

void

Indicative of the under law gospel of the institutional church is the everything Jesus gig, aka Christocentric this, and that, and the other. It’s not at-all complicated; the overemphasis on Christ is directly related to the false gospel of the institutional church. In this false gospel, “Christ” partners with the law to cut out God the Father and the Holy Spirit. In this false gospel, Christ is central, and the other two members of the Trinity play supporting roles. In fact, supposedly, according to many well known evangelicals, Christ came to save us from God; the God of grace, Jesus, saving us from the God of wrath. So, right off the bat, the Father is defined by wrath and not love. That identity is subtly shifted to Christ. But again, all in all, these distortions of the Trinity seek to slip the law back into the good news.

To the contrary, it was God the Father who elected the means of salvation AND the Son. Furthermore, it is God the Father’s righteousness that is imputed to us because we are born of Him—that’s what makes us righteous, and nothing else. Think about what the church did: it made Christ’s obedience to the law the standard or definition of righteousness, not the fact that we are born anew by our heavenly Father. This imputation of Christ’s obedience to the law cuts the Father out of the salvation equation.

We are therefore, according to the church’s under law gospel, only declared righteous through the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to the law, and not MADE righteous through being born anew by the Father. We are righteous because of the infusion of God’s seed within us (see 1John chapter 3). Moreover, Christ was called on to die so that the Spirit could be promised to him, that is, Christ, Abraham, and all of Abraham’s children. That’s right, the promise of the Spirit was to Abraham and Christ. It was a promise that the Spirit would not leave Christ in the grave, but would resurrect him and make him the first fruits of many.

Galatians 3:16 – Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

The promise was made to Abraham AND Christ by the Father, and executed by the Spirit when He resurrected Christ from the grave. The idea that we are righteous because Christ obeyed the law for us, and by believing on him we have the “righteousness of Christ,” makes the law a co-life-giver with God the Father. This is the exact same false gospel that Paul was arguing against in Galatians 3:

Galatians 3:17 – This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

If the law has anything to do with the gospel at all, the promise is voided. Hence, you see how egregious double imputation is; this whole idea that Christ not only died for us, but also came to keep the law in our stead. The law has NO part of the promise at all. Christocentric soteriology makes it possible to include the law in the promise. In effect, it is a righteousness by the law in contrast to being made righteous via the family we are born into—that’s what makes us righteous—not law regardless of who keeps it. We are reborn as a particular species: righteous, like our Father who gave us life.

We see this in how the church defines the word translated “perfect.” It is defined as perfect law-keeping. Take note of that, this is almost too simple: that’s a righteousness by the law; that’s NOT a righteousness “APART” from the law (Romans 3:21). The church’s definition of righteousness voids the promise.

So, you see, this is why Christ is the whole thing according to the church and the other two members of the Trinity become out of sight and out of mind—they are replaced by the law. Christ died to pay the penalty of sin against the law, but also “fulfilled the righteous demands of the law,” and frankly, continues to do so.

But in reality, the work of the Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise apart from the law. By faith, we “receive the Spirit.”

Galatians 3:1 – O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Here, we see the two different roles of Christ and the Spirit and both exclude the law. When the law is included, so is the flesh in regard to the use of our members for unrighteousness. Why? Because the new birth is replaced with ritual. Christ was crucified to end the law, not obey it for us because it is the definition of righteousness for justification. The Spirit’s baptism puts the old us to death with Christ, and resurrects us in the same way He resurrected Christ, and that’s what makes us righteous:

Romans 4:18 – In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

The constant thread is the Spirit’s miraculous births throughout the ages, culminating in our new birth, made possible by raising Christ from the grave. The law cannot give life (Gal 3:21) and has nothing to do with justification at all. The law is for sanctification only, and to the extent that we fuse justification and sanctification together, we usurp the new birth. The everything Jesus motif is for the express purpose of fusing justification and sanctification together, or in other words, fusing the law with justification via Jesus while devaluing the roles of the Father and Spirit.

But in the final analysis, if there is any gospel centrality at all, it should be the centrality of the promise made possible by the Spirit who gives life apart from the law. He resurrected Christ because Christ ended the law so that life in the Spirit can be by faith alone.

paul

1John 3 final

Orthodoxy

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 28, 2015

Tulip

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 28, 2015

Susan and Paul Discuss Catholicism and Protestantism: Why are Both False Gospels?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 6, 2015
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