Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why Are You “Dissing” the Church?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 24, 2016

Originally published April 16, 2015

andy-profile-1Leaving the institutional church has been one of the best decisions our family has made. Granted, there are the social aspects that we miss (my wife especially, she’s a people person), but it doesn’t take much searching to admit that real friendships have to be based on more than just a weekly formal gathering. Want to know who your real friends are? Just try leaving your church for whatever reason. See how many of them still keep in contact with you. In fact, it was a comment very similar to that which I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago, which prompted quite a debate.

There is a young man with whom I am friends, let’s call him “Trevor”. I have personally known Trevor for many years. Trevor has come to me with many questions about some of the things I post on Facebook, and we have had some very edifying discussions. We’ve talked at length about the differences between Justification and Sanctification. He is genuinely seeking answers, and I am grateful for the opportunities to help disciple him.

But a few weeks ago, Trevor sent me the following private message on Facebook:

 “Hey Andy I keep seeing you dissing on churches and even though you are probably right why not use your intelligence and abilities on helping teach people about God. There are a lot of people who need God that I’m sure are reading that and when people see hostility amongst Christians towards other Christians it turns them off to it completely and isn’t that contradictory to what we want for people”

I understand the motivation behind his response, and I don’t hold it against him. It is typical from anyone who sits under the orthodoxy of the institutional church. Trevor has probably even spoken with his pastor about some of these issues I’ve brought up, and maybe this response comes after the result of one of those conversations. Either way, his tone of concern is well noted and appreciated. So below you will find my response to Trevor. I apologize that it is rather lengthy, but I hope that it will be edifying.

 Dear Trevor,

 I’m sure you will agree that it is hard to give a full-orbed treatise within the confines of a simple Facebook status message. It doesn’t lend itself well for going into details. So the goal is to try and make your point in the most direct and concise manner possible. For that reason, a simple matter-of-fact statement may come across as curt and abrasive. That is unavoidable. Nevertheless, statements such as these should prompt people to think. But often times, rather than think, people respond defensively because they automatically assume I am attacking them. I am not attacking people, I am challenging ideas. But most people are too lazy to differentiate the two because they have too much ego invested in their ideas, and therefore take any attack on an idea as a personal attack. This is true of both Christians and non-Christians alike. And actually I have found that those who call themselves “Christian” have an even greater tendency toward ego investment, and there is a very good explanation for that, which leads me to the next point.

 When you challenge what a “Christian” has traditionally been taught, you are indeed challenging their very salvation. And this is a frightening prospect for them. But it is for this very reason that these notions need to be challenged, because what it boils down to is that their faith is in a “belief system” rather than belief in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That which passes for “the church” is the very embodiment of this belief system. Is it any wonder then that people have such a knee jerk reaction? For someone to even raise the question that what they have been taught might be wrong scares the crap out of them!

 This is why I criticize the institutional church, because it embodies this system that has kept people in the spiritual dark ages for centuries! The institutional church is based on “authority”, and the system is needed to maintain the authority. But this is so contrary to scripture. There is to be no authority among the brethren of Christ. Christ is the authority! And he is the only mediator between God and man. Now that is not to say that there is not leadership, but leadership is not the same as authority. Authority implies “power”, while leadership implies “example”. But the emphasis within the traditional “church” model is predicated on power and authority, and everything that happens within the confines of these institutions is designed to maintain that power structure. It has been that way since the very early beginnings of the Roman Catholic church in the 4th century. And Protestantism is no different.

 I see many good genuine Christian people languishing away within the walls of the institutional church, and it grieves me deeply, for there are eternal consequences at stake. Not as far as salvation goes, but with regard to eternal rewards. You have spiritually illiterate Christians looking to some authority to tell them what to believe, who have never been equipped to carry out the task that was given to them from the first day they were born again- to go out and make disciples. They are not exercising their gifts. Instead they hide their talent in the ground, waiting for the Master to return and say, “here Lord, here’s what you gave me.” And there will be no eternal reward for them. And the church is purposefully keeping them in this state of immaturity. How I long for believers to realize their full potential as Children of God! But that will never happen in the “church”. The church serves itself.

 So, even having said all of that, I still haven’t fully been able to explain the depth of this all. But your concern is how this arguing among believers will turn off others. I contend that what turns of the unsaved is not the fact that they see Christians argue, but rather that Christians don’t even know what they believe.   Furthermore, what they do claim to believe is not even rational. Christianity for the past 1500 years has simply failed to produce a fully rational explanation for why someone should believe in Jesus. There must be more to it that just, “well you just have to have faith.” Faith must be grounded in reality. So we don’t simply lay aside arguments regarding contending for truth just for the sake of presenting the illusion of a unified front to the world.

 In addition, the traditional excuse for evangelism is simply nothing more than who has the better sales pitch for getting someone to attend their church versus another. This ties in directly with the notion of salvation being in the church. Christians are more interested in getting people into their church than they are with teaching people about the gospel of the Kingdom. By definition, the church cannot be comprised of unbelievers. The body of Christ, the “assembly”, is only made up of believers. The purpose of believers assembling is for edification, and that happens by four functions: instruction in the word, fellowship, sharing meals (including the Lord’s table), and praying together. (Acts 2:42). How can an unbeliever possibly be any part of that? He shares nothing in common. He is not a part of the Body. 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” Unbelievers have no part in the fellowship of God’s people.

 Now the excuse has been that we need to bring unsaved to church so that they can get saved. But that is simply a lazy excuse for evangelism. It is not what Christ’s instructions were. Believers gather in fellowship to be edified. Having then been properly equipped, WE can go OUT into the world to take the gospel TO the lost so that they can HEAR it from US. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. How then shall they believe in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be SENT? (Romans 10:14-15, 17) Every believer is a preacher- and ambassador from God’s heavenly Kingdom – sent forth with the message of reconciliation to the world. It is our mandate as individuals, NOT the function of an institution!

 And so seeing how the “church” has utterly failed in every way in all of these areas, I hope you can better understand now why I have such disdain for it and am so critical of it. But the answer is not reform. It doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be defeated because it is not what God intended for His people. The answer is, to come out from among them and be separate. And that is what I have done, and that is what I want to encourage all believers to do. Come out from this institution and join in genuine fellowship with other like-minded believers and start exercising your gifts. There is no horizontal authority between men among believers. All authority is in Christ.

 Andy

 

 

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 6

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 19, 2016

This is the sixth and final part of a six part series.
Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Click here for Part Three.
Click here for Part Four.
Click here for Part Five.

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.

Andy

“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

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 5

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 16, 2016

This is part five of a six part series.
Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Click here for Part Three.
Click here for Part Four.
Click here for Part Six.

We continue on in our examination of the Tim Challies article, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. The strategy I am using in these articles is to evaluate both sides of the argument, Catholic and Protestant. I think the best way that we can uncover the duplicity employed by Challies is to examine the argument in context alongside Catholicism. Therefore it is necessary to make sure we have an accurate understanding of Catholicism.

I think it is disingenuous of Challies to circumvent such an evaluation. I don’t believe one can effectively argue against what one group claims they reject about one’s beliefs unless one fully understands what the other’s beliefs are. This is precisely what he is attempting, not to refute Catholicism on its face, but to refute Catholicism’s rejection of his own beliefs. I think it speaks volumes about the fact that Challies knows that there is no real practical difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.  Yet, it provides an effective cover for any serious consideration of what his beliefs are on at least two levels. One, the reader is left to assume that his assessment of Challies’ beliefs are in line with his own. Two, Challies shelters his beliefs from any serious scrutiny since the focus is on Catholicism and not Protestantism.  But as you should well know by now, we don’t play that game here at Paul’s Passing Thoughts!

So having said all of that as an introduction, let’s take a look at point number five from the article.

“If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. (Canon 30)”

”I believe this precious truth and will fight to the death for it! I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed to such an extent that no debt remains to be discharged in this world or in purgatory before he can enter into heaven. (Rom 5:1, Col 2:13-14)”

The context of this point appears to be an argument over the doctrine of purgatory. Look closely at the word “purgatory”, and you should see the root word “purge”. That is the purpose of purgatory; to purge any remaining sins. A more detailed explanation of purgatory is found on the Catholic Answers website:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a ‘purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,’ which is experienced by those ‘who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified’ (CCC 1030). It notes that ‘this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned’ (CCC 1031).

“The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.”[i]

Challies would have us believe that the dispute is over this doctrine of purgatory, but this again only serves as a distraction from the real issue. But an examination of the Catholic view as set against a true Biblical view is necessary to understand Challies’ position.

According to Catholicism, purgatory is needed to “purge” any last remaining vestiges of sin and unrighteousness. In this sense, the “sin debt” is not fully paid. As we saw in part two of this series, Catholics believe in the new birth as a change in the state of being, but if remaining unrighteous must be purged in purgatory, then obviously the implication is that even though believers are born again, they are still sinners.

Reference is made particularly with regard to “venial sins” vs. “mortal sins”. Martin Luther also spoke of “venial” and “mortal sins” in his Heidleberg Disputation. According to Luther, if we believe that we did any good work, that’s works salvation and a “mortal sin.” But, if we attend our good works (as Christians) with fear that it could be us who did it and not God, that’s “venial sin” and not “mortal sin.” Hence, part of the Protestant daily repentance regiment is asking forgiveness for good works[ii] that we have done[iii] just in case it was us who did them[iv]. Catholicism allows for the possibility that there could be venial sins of which the believer is not consciously aware, and it is these venial sins that must be purged in purgatory. Nevertheless, the point is that both Catholics and Protestants agree on a continual need for dealing with present sin, either in this life or the next.

Herein is the basis of the dispute. Reformation theology, as Challies follows it, would deny the need for purgatory on that basis that there is no dealing with sin in the next life other than the final judgment. In this life, venial sins are forgiven in this daily returning to the same gospel that saved you. In living by “faith alone” you acknowledge that you did no good works and you demonstrate your continual need for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed to your account. So while Challies is right in rejecting the doctrine of purgatory, he is still in error regarding the idea of believers still being sinners in need of daily salvation through “faith alone”.

Both Catholicism and Protestantism are in error on the same point. The assumption is a remaining need for forgiveness of “present sin”. In contrast, the Bible says that the born again believer IS truly righteous as a state of being because of his new creaturehood as the righteous offspring of God the Father. This righteous offspring is righteous because there is no law under which he can be condemned. The law was ended for him when he was born again, because the old man died. And where there is no law, there is no sin. This is why the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:9 that he who is born of God CANNOT sin! If he cannot sin, then there is no need for forgiveness, there is no need for any re-justification by the active obedience of Christ, there is no need for Christ’s righteousness to be imputed to one’s account in order to maintain a righteous standing, and there is no need for any purging of remaining sin before one may enter the Kingdom.

Here we have another example of Challies allowing his readers to assume that they agree with his belief and that their definition of terms is the same as his own. But neither Challies nor any reformed Protestant leader believes that a saved person is truly righteous. That is the real issue at stake.   While he says in his statement, “I believe that at the moment of justification the sinner’s guilt and punishment are removed,” the fact remains that this authentic Protestant doctrine of “faith alone” must be lived out continually so that the work of Christ is constantly done in the life of the believer. Guilt and punishment are removed, so long as one returns to the same gospel that saved him.

We have one last point to examine, and we will evaluate that point in part six.

Andy


[i] http://www.catholic.com/tracts/purgatory

[ii] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/repenting-of-our-good-works

[iii] http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/08/repenting_of_our_good_works.php

[iv] http://www.monergism.com/repentworks.html

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 12, 2016

This is part four of a six part series.
Click here for Part One.
Click here for Part Two.
Click here for Part Three.
Click here for Part Five.
Click here for Part Six.

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.

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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,” ~
Colossians 2:18

“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.

Andy


[i] https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5392

 

Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel: A Review of Tim Challies’ Article – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 11, 2016

This is part three of a six part series.
Click here for Part One

Click here for Part Two
Click here for Part Four.
Click here for Part Five.
Click here for Part Six.

We continue on in our review of an article written by Tim Challies in 2014 entitled, “Anti-Catholic or Pro Gospel”. Challies states in his introduction, “What I have found is that the Roman Catholic Church understands my theology very well.” But by contrast, those of authentic reformed theology also understand Catholicism very well. This should really come as no surprise to us, since the reformation boiled down to nothing more than two packs of wolves vying for the mutton. The argument has always been about progressive justification and whether or not believers have anything to contribute to the mix.

In an interesting twist, Challies doesn’t argue against Catholicism directly. In fact, he offers very little in the way of support for his own views which he simply claims Catholics reject. This conveniently allows him to frame the argument any way he wishes without having to back it up. It is one thing to say “you reject what I believe,” but it is an entirely different matter to say, “here is why you reject what I believe.” Really, it serves as nothing more than a distraction, getting our attention off the real issue. While we are busy evaluating what Catholics say about Protestants, we are ignoring what Protestants are saying.

Challies cites select canons from the Council of Trent. To be specific, these citations come from the Sixth Council of Trent of January 13, 1547 [i]. The canons on justification are only one section of a larger body of work. The first section contains a lengthy affirmation of the Catholic doctrine on justification. The canons that follow are then the resulting refutations based on what is taught in section one. Challies cites the canons only while ignoring the specific doctrinal statements in section one.

So having said that, let’s continue our review by looking at Challies’ third point. Quoting from his article:

“If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema. (Canon 14)”

“This may require some nuance, because I do not believe that I am absolved from sin because I believe I am absolved from sin; however, I do hold, as the Council says here, that faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners. (Rom 5:1)”

So far this is one of the most confusing statements in this article! There is a reason his reply is “nuanced”, and I give him some credit here for at least being honest about that. Let’s parse this out. Challies says, “I do not believe that I am absolved from sin because I believe I am absolved from sin”. Said another way, simply believing that one is absolved from sin does not absolve from sin. In that sense, it would seem that Challies would find agreement with Rome, for that is what it appears that Canon 14 declares. And I seriously doubt that anyone in their right mind would say they are absolved from sin simply because they believe it. The must be some basis for absolution other than simply declaring it.

But look carefully at Canon 14. It states, “absolved from sins AND justified.” Both are related. The former is dependent upon the latter. Catholicism rejects the notion of justification by “faith alone” and that furthermore such a justification should be the means or the basis of absolving sin. But it goes even farther than that. The last part of Canon 14 states, “by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected.” Once again what we have is the idea of an ongoing absolution of “present sin” in the Christian life, and such absolution is only obtained by “faith alone”, which Catholicism rejects. Whereas in Catholicism such absolution, such maintaining of justification, would be obtained by the sacrament of confession (among others).

Challies’ “nuanced” first part of his reply only references absolution with regard to “faith alone” and conveniently leaves out a reference to justification. Therefore he feels he can honestly say, “no, I don’t believe I am absolved of sin simply because I believe I am.” At face value, it is a purposefully obtuse understanding of Canon 14, and Challies knows this, thus the need he feels to “nuance” his reply.

Yet he turns right around in the second part of his reply and says, “faith in Christ alone does absolve sin and justify sinners.” It would seem as if he has just contradicted what he said in the first part of his statement. Which is it Tim?   Are you absolved of sin because you “believe” you are or not? When one understands that with Protestants, “faith alone” is needed to maintain justification, it all become pretty clear. In the Protestant construct, “faith alone” does absolve sin because then the “active obedience of Christ” is applied to the believer’s account. If believers are still sinners, Christ’s work of keeping the law must be constantly imputed, and that only happens by “faith alone”. As that happens, justification is maintained.

This is yet one more example of just how both Catholics and Protestants believe in a progressive justification. What Challies calls “nuance”, not only in this example but in his entire article, is better referred to as “doublespeak.” It is language used to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth. It is also a technique used by teachers of reformed theology whereby they allow the laity to assume that they mean something other than what they are really saying.   We will continue to dissect the doublespeak as we examine point number four in the next article.

Andy


[i] https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5392

 

 

 

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