A Fascinating Concession By Albert Mohler

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is apparently startled by how much Evangelicals like Pope Francis, and is trying to scare them away from him by reminding them that we disagree whether justification is by faith, or by faith alone:

Mohler noted that Pope Benedict XVI famously affirmed the doctrine of justification by faith when writing about the apostle Paul, “but he would not add that crucial word ‘alone.’”

“Lacking the word ‘alone,’ that means justification by faith that works in synergistic mechanism with our own righteousness or attempts at righteousness and efforts to gain merit,” Mohler said.

I actually agree with Mohler here, but I think that this argument shows why Martin Luther was wrong on justification.  See, the one who added “that crucial word ‘alone’” was Martin Luther, not the Apostle Paul. And Luther even admitted as much.

Okay, let me step back to explain what we’re talking about here. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is the doctrine upon which, according to Luther, the Reformation rose or fell. And the theory was based in large part of his reading of Romans and Galatians, particularly Romans 3:28. In Luther’s German translation, it reads: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith alone apart from works of law.” But Luther added that word “alone,” and even conceded that the word for “alone” isn’t found in the original Greek, or in the Latin that he’s translating from. In his Open Letter on Translating, he wrote:

I know very well that in Romans 3 the word solum is not in the Greek or Latin text — the papists did not have to teach me that. It is fact that the letters s-o-l-a are not there. And these blockheads stare at them like cows at a new gate, while at the same time they do not recognize that it conveys the sense of the text — if the translation is to be clear and vigorous [klar und gewaltiglich], it belongs there.

Given that “alone” isn’t found in the Greek or Latin version of Romans 3:28, how should Protestants defend Luther’s insertion of the word, particularly when it seems to change the meaning of the one of the most hotly-contested passages in Scripture? Here’s what Luther suggested would be good enough for a Catholic (or in his words, a papist donkey):
But I will return to the subject at hand. If your papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word sola (alone), say this to him: “Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he says that a papist and a donkey are the same thing.” Sic volo, sic iubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas [“I will it, I command it, my will is reason enough.”]. For we are not going to be students and disciples of the papists. Rather, we will become their teachers and judges. For once, we also are going to be proud and brag, with these blockheads; and just as Paul brags against his mad raving saints, I will brag against these donkeys of mine! Are they doctors? So am I. Are they scholars? So am I. Are they preachers? So am I. Are they theologians? So am I. Are they debaters? So am I. Are they philosophers? So am I. Are they logicians? So am I. Do they lecture? So do I. Do they write books? So do I. 
I will go even further with my boasting: I can expound the psalms and the prophets, and they cannot. I can translate, and they cannot. I can read the Holy Scriptures, and they cannot. I can pray, they cannot. Coming down to their level, I can use their rhetoric and philosophy better than all of them put together. Plus I know that not one of them understands his Aristotle. If any one of them can correctly understand one preface or chapter of Aristotle, I will eat my hat!
Ultimately, Luther’s position was that “justification by faith” implies “justification by faith alone.” But that’s what make Mohler’s argument fascinating, because he flatly denies this. Again, what he said was:

“Lacking the word ‘alone,’ that means justification by faith that works in synergistic mechanism with our own righteousness or attempts at righteousness and efforts to gain merit,” Mohler said.

If he is right, and I think he is, what he has (no doubt inadvertently) established is that St. Paul and Pope Benedict XVI are synergists, unlike Martin Luther.  How this helps the Protestant case on justification is beyond me.

54 Comments

  1. I literally laughed out loud when I read the following quote from Mohler:

    “[The papal office] is something that is anathema, absolutely foreign, absolutely in contradiction to the evangelical principle of sola scriptura — of Scripture alone…”

    Nevermind the fact that the idea of “sola scriptura” was nonexistent to the Apostles or the early Church. As someone who is entering the Church in less than two weeks at the Easter Vigil, I’m struggling against the strong urge to argue the issue to death with protestants I know who seem so unwilling to look at facts. I have begun asking for the prayers of St. Peter Canisius, who brought many 16th century german protestants back to the Church.

    Thank you for the great resources that you have made available to new Catholics like me.

  2. Lervin78, I will pray for you (and Mr Mohler) very much when i stand and hear/sing the Litany of The Saints during the Vigil. If i can pray thru my tears.
    Keep the Faith,
    teomatteo

  3. I’ve never understood how people who want to profess the cohesion of all Scripture, and seek the unity of John 17, can interpret Scripture like Luther did in the face of Matthew 25 and Romans 2:6, to name a few.

  4. The Roman Catholic writer Joseph A. Fitzmyer points out that Luther was not the only one to translate Romans 3:28. with the word “alone.”
    Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):

    Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).

    Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).

    Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).

    Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).

    John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).

    Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19 ).

    Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.

    Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).

    Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28 : Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28

    1. Meyu, tell me plainly… do you agree or disagree with this:

       “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

    2. “Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14). “–Pope Benedict XVI

    3. Daniel,
      I do disagree with -” “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

    4. Then don’t be surprised Meyu when our King says to you:

      Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me.And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

      And if you say but Lord! I have faith and man is justified by faith alone!

      Our Lord will say:

      Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

    5. Restless Pilgrim, The point is to show that Luther was not the first nor the only one to use the term “faith alone”. What is a “Sola Fide” Christian?

    6. But I expect that what will actually happen is that Meyu will be saved, that our Lord will say well done good and faithful servant.

      For while Meyu disagrees with the very words of our Savior, he will live out the orthodox faith by his works and will by grace inherite eternal life.

    7. Daniel,
      “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Gal 2:16

    8. Yes. Our Lord through Paul was talking to heretics who believed they were saved by works of the law and not by faith.

      Our Lord through James was talking to heretics who tought that they were justified by faith alone.

      Anyone who denys grace alone is a heretic.
      Anyone who affirms we are saved through works alone is a heretic.
      Anyone who denies we are justied by works and not faith alone is a heretic.
      Anyone who affirms we are justified by faith alone devoid of works is a heretic.

      You can say we are saved by faith and not be a heretic.

      You can say we are saved by the symbiosis of faith and works and not be a heretic.

      But faith without love, without charity, without working out your salvation with fear and trembling won’t ever save you in this life or the world to come.

    9. How has your church officially interpreted James 2:14-26?

      This would be a good place to start by seeing how your church officially interprets this passage of Scripture.

    10. >The point is to show that Luther was not the first nor the only one to use the term “faith alone”.

      Was this in doubt?

      What is a “Sola Fide” Christian?

      One who believes that we are saved by faith alone, apart from anything else.
      (A belief held by none of the authors you listed above)

    11. No one “who believes that we are saved by faith alone, apart from anything else” is saved. A man is saved by faith alone in Christ alone. It is faith in Christ in His life and death for our sins and His resurrection that saves a man. Rom 10:9-10

    12. Meyu,

      I’m not sure that I’m making the argument that you seem to be responding to. You seem to think that my point is “Luther added ‘alone’ to Romans 3:28, and therefore he’s wrong.” But I think that the point that I was making is a bit more nuanced than that. If you were to present it as a syllogism, it might look something like this:

      1) Major premise: According to Mohler, without the crucial word, “alone,” the phrase “justification by faith” is synergistic, and contrary to Protestantism. Specifically, he says: “Lacking the word ‘alone,’ that means justification by faith that works in synergistic mechanism with our own righteousness or attempts at righteousness and efforts to gain merit.”

      2) Minor Premise: Romans 3:28, in its non-altered form, lacks the word “alone,” which Luther conceded in his letter regarding the translation.

      3) Conclusion: The Epistle to the Romans presents “justification by faith” as something that works synergistically.

      Of course, this suggests that Luther and St. Paul preached different Gospels, at least in the way that sola fide Protestants use the term “Gospel.”

      In response, you mentioned that other people also translated Romans 3:28 by adding “alone.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t appear to answer any part of my main argument.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      P.S. Perhaps it’s worth pointing out the obvious: depending on the speaker’s intent, you can understand “justification by faith alone” in a synergistic way. That’s the way that Pope Benedict understands it, as Daniel points out. It’s also the way that all of the Saints you cited understood it, as Restless Pilgrim pointed out. You even seem to point this out in your original comment, that when Thomas uses “faith alone,” he means “faith to the exclusion of ‘the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law.’”

    13. Meyu, the official interpretation of that verse can be found at Trent Session VI chapter VII.

      Though your question has it all turned around. The deposit of faith isn’t found in our interpretation of scripture. The deposit of faith is the dogmas of the church, resting on an interwoven pillar-to mix metaphors-of the Bible and the fathers.

    14. Meyu,

      No problem. Let me rephrase. The controversial part of sola fide isn’t the fide (“[justification by] faith”); it’s the sola (“alone”). We believe in justification by faith. We reject justification by faith alone.

      Mohler recognized this. Again, here’s the passage that I think is interesting:

      “Mohler noted that Pope Benedict XVI famously affirmed the doctrine of justification by faith when writing about the apostle Paul, “but he would not add that crucial word ‘alone.’”

      “Lacking the word ‘alone,’ that means justification by faith that works in synergistic mechanism with our own righteousness or attempts at righteousness and efforts to gain merit,” Mohler said.”

      But Mohler’s argument works as well against St. Paul as it does against Benedict. And I’m suggesting that’s because Benedict and Paul believed the same thing: the very thing denied by Luther.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    15. Jesus us calls us to repent from evil and feed our neighbor.

      If you believe in the Son, but you don’t repent and you don’t feed your hungry neighbor and you don’t forgive your neighbor when he sins against you and is sorry, then you are not saved.

      Period. End of discussion

      You can whine ‘ but that’s not what I mean by faith alone!’

      So be it. Like I said, even if you have a heretic tongue you have orthodox hands and will be saved because of it.

      But regardless of what people today mean by it, Luther meant by it that a sinner who believes and is sorry for what he does BUT DOES NOT AMEND OR ATTEMPT TO AMEND his ways is saved, when the Bible would plainly indicate that he is not saved, and 1500 years of the writings of the fathers indicates he is it saved.

    16. Joe,
      I don’t know Luther’s works that well. He wrote quite a bit. Faith by itself does not save anyone. Only faith in Christ alone is what saves. I think taking Romans 3:24-26 helps us to understand what verse 28 means–“24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Faith alone is the “instrument” by which a man is to be justified. When a man puts his faith in Jesus, he is justified.

    17. Daniel,
      I don’t know Luther that well but I would be very surprised if he believed the way you put it. Luther knew the Scriptures very well. He would know that those who believe in Christ would demonstrate that belief by doing good works. The good works in and of themselves can do nothing to gain salvation but are evidence that salvation has taken place.

    18. True or False:

      There are sins of omission and sins of commission.
      To be saved, we must repent.
      Repent means more than confess with our mouth, but actually amend our ways.

      How would one repent from a sin of omission without doing a good work?

    19. No amount of good works can atone for sin. Repentance means to change one’s mind and purpose. It is a turning from sin to God. (Acts 2:38)

      What does James mean by justified in James 2:24?

    20. So by your own words you think that to repent of sins of omission is to make a purpose of doing what we previously sinned by not doing, which is good works.

      Justification is the application of Christ’s work on the cross to our lives for our salvation. It’s contrasted with our sanctification that is worked out in our daily choosing of good and rejecting of evil.

    21. Hello meyu,

      Perhaps I can give it a stab 🙂 This will not be a full explanation of Catholic belief of salvation, but may help you begin to understand why we say it cannot be faith alone.

      You said “those who believe in Christ would demonstrate that belief by doing good works.”

      If I would write this as an If-Then statement, it would be:

      “If you believe in Christ, then you will do good works.”

      If you consider this a true statement, then the contrapositive is also true:

      “If you do not do good works, then you do not believe in Christ.”

      So if believing in Christ is necessary for salvation, and a lack of good works means you do not really believe in Christ, then good works are necessary for salvation. For no good works means no belief in Christ, which means no salvation.

      This is what we mean by ‘faith without works is dead’. It is only a spoken faith, one that comes from the mouth, but not from the mind and heart. We are very capable of fooling ourselves, and this includes fooling ourselves about ‘believing in Christ’.

  5. Lervin78, from one Catholic convert to another future Catholic convert, welcome!

    Luther was a very smart guy, a very persuasive guy, who saw a lot of corruption and abuses in his day and tackled them with all the strength he could, he was also a guy with a lot of good arguments… But That one stated above isn’t one of them though! It’s kinda silly make up this idea of “sola scriptura” and then go ahead and add words to those scriptures.

    If you’re going to go by “sola scriptura”, you can’t assume anything with scripture. The words are there, and that’s that. Nothing more, nothing less. The word μόνος (monos – “alone”) isn’t there in that passage of Sacred Scripture.

    Regarding Romans 3:28:

    It’s been taken totally out of context down throughout the centuries in my opinion. It was originally written for probably a group of quarreling Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians in Rome. It was never meant to be the foundation of an entire belief system of Protestantism.

    The original Greek of that passage does, in my opinion, disprove Luther’s idea that “alone” is implied. If you read enough Greek, you get a feel for what certain authors are trying to get across. St. Paul is not talking about Faith as a standalone concept, but as something that complements the Law, instead of “apart” another way to translate the word “χωρὶς” (choris) would be as “separate”.

    In fact St. Paul says better than I ever could later on in Romans 3:31: “Does that mean that we are using faith to rob the law of its force? No, we are setting the law on its right footing.”

  6. Restless Pilgrim
    You asked–“Does that faith need charity?”

    Not for salvation. Before a man is saved he is in a dead condition. Notice how Ephesians 2:1-3 describes the unsaved:
    1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
    2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
    3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

    Chapter 4 also shows how the unsaved lives-
    “17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,
    18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
    19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

    1. Meyu, really? Faith doesn’t need charity for salvation? How, in light of passages such as Matt 25:35-46 and James 2:14-26 (for starters), can you arrive at this theory, unless you’re riding solely (pun intended) on Luther’s solas?

    2. Kim,
      There is nothing in the unsaved that he can do to please God. That’s what Eph 2:1-3 and 4:17-19 is about. Notice what Paul says in Romans 3:10-18:
      “10 as it is written,
      “There is none righteous, not even one;
      11 There is none who understands,
      There is none who seeks for God;
      12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
      There is none who does good,
      There is not even one.”
      13 “Their throat is an open grave,
      With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
      “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
      14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
      15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
      16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
      17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
      18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

      This is why the unbeliever needs salvation. The salvation that can only be gained by faith alone in Christ alone. After this, then charity is possible because this charity is of the Holy Spirit.

    3. So are you saying that one is saved at one time, in a certain moment, because they “have faith”, and then from that point on are then capable of charity? Because it seems strange to me that Jesus would have to preach charity to people who are already saved and thus incapable of not producing the “evidence that salvation had taken place.”

    4. Jesus message is for those who would believe in Him for salvation. Salvation must happen first before a person can apply the teachings of Christ to their lives. It is only when a person has the Spirit of Christ in them (salvation) that they will have the desire and will to do the teachings of Christ. Without this, people are incapable of producing true spiritual fruit that the Scripture speaks of.

    5. Ah, but you admit that what is needed is the Spirit of God — God’s grace — and both faith and works are the fruit thereof. Which means it is the grace that is salvific, not the faith.

    6. meyuMarch 19, 2013 at 12:20 AM
      Kim,
      There is nothing in the unsaved that he can do to please God. That’s what Eph 2:1-3 and 4:17-19 is about. Notice what Paul says in Romans 3:10-18:
      “10 as it is written,
      “There is none righteous, not even one;
      11 There is none who understands,
      There is none who seeks for God;
      12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
      There is none who does good,
      There is not even one.”
      13 “Their throat is an open grave,
      With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
      “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
      14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
      15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
      16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
      17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
      18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

      This is not a reference to all people, Meyu. Nor is it even a reference to all unbelievers.

      EVERYONE has the Law of God written in their hearts. They who follow that Law, whether they consciously believe in God or not, are a law unto themselves. So says the Word of God:
      Romans 2:13-15
      King James Version (KJV)
      13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
      14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
      15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

      This is why the unbeliever needs salvation.

      Everyone needs salvation. Believer and unbeliever alike.

      The salvation that can only be gained by faith alone in Christ alone.
      James 2:24
      King James Version (KJV)
      24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

      Faith alone doesn’t save. And Christ won’t save you unless you obey His Commandments:

      Hebrews 5:9
      And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
      After this, then charity is possible because this charity is of the Holy Spirit.

      After this, then charity is possible because this charity is of the Holy Spirit.

      Charity is always possible. We are all born of God. Charity is love and even the pagans love their mothers.

  7. Every time I start liking Albert Mohler then he goes and says some anti-Catholic or other such drivel. Why keep trying to revive the Reformation? It ended 500 years ago. Oh and by the way I mean that to all, Catholic and Protestant alike. If we love our Lord Jesus Christ we are on the same team. And that is my view.

    I am a Roman Catholic because I believe we have the fullest expression of Christianity, the “fullness” of the Faith. That does NOT mean I think we are better Christians. BIG difference. If anything we as Roman Catholics do, at least oftentimes, a remarkably poor job of showing it. So my point above is not some subtle dig at my Protestant Christian family and friends. Not a bit. My point is that remarks such as Mohler’s kill what could be otherwise good dialogue between us. He is questioning our Christianity due to a translation difference in a 16th century German Lutheran Bible. And he is a Baptist who calls himself a theologian. How scholarly is that?

  8. catholicboyrihcard.com:

    “My point is that remarks such as Mohler’s kill what could be otherwise good dialogue between us. He is questioning our Christianity due to a translation difference in a 16th century German Lutheran Bible. And he is a Baptist who calls himself a theologian. How scholarly is that?”

    I am one Lutheran who is interested in dialogue. And I certainly think the doctrine of justification is just as important today as it was 500 years ago and beyond.

    Take a look at my attempt at ecumenical dialogue here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/the-coming-vindication-of-martin-luther-preface/

    For more historical background on the doctrine of justification throughout history, listen to this:

    ://www.beesondivinity.com/podcast#/swx/pp/media_archives/99668/episode/34191

    Blessings,
    Nathan

    1. Nathan,

      I’ve admittedly only skimmed your six part blog series, but here are my initial reactions, based upon what I’ve seen:

      1) You devote a substantial portion to ecclesiology, which I am glad of, because I think this is where most Protestants begin to go wrong. There’s a common culturally-enforced assumption that we’re the final judges of truth. But this is obviously contrary to Scripture.

      2) You seem to defend Luther breaking with the Church because he did it slowly and half-heartedly (Part I seems to be built around this, for example). Correct me if I’m getting your argument here wrong, but you focus a lot on the fact that he took a decade to finalize his schism, and that he felt that he needed to by the end. When a Catholic mentioned in the comments that *all* heretics and schismatics could say the same thing, you shut the conversation down: “Its going to be hard to continue our dialogue if that is all you want to talk about.”

      3) If my reading of Scripture disagrees with the Church’s reading of Scripture, whose interpretation should I follow?

      4) How do you envision this ecclesiological model working? I suppose another way of asking is: how can you authorize Luther’s schism without authorizing all of the schisms after the fact? And where’s your Biblical point for this?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      Nota bene: You focus a lot on ecclesiology, and that’s what I’m asking about. I’m not looking for your Biblical support for why you think Luther is right on justification. I’m familiar with those passages, and their deficiencies. Besides, all heretics and schismatics cite Biblical support. As St. Jerome said,

      “We ought to remain in that Church which was founded by the Apostles and continues to this day. If ever you hear of any that are called Christians taking their name not from the Lord Jesus Christ, but from some other, for instance, Marcionites, Valentinians, Men of the mountain or the plain, you may be sure that you have there not the Church of Christ, but the synagogue of Antichrist. For the fact that they took their rise after the foundation of the Church is proof that they are those whose coming the Apostle foretold.

      And let them not flatter themselves if they think they have Scripture authority for their assertions, since the devil himself quoted Scripture, and the essence of the Scriptures is not the letter, but the meaning. Otherwise, if we follow the letter, we too can concoct a new dogma and assert that such persons as wear shoes and have two coats must not be received into the Church.”

      – St. Jerome, The Dialogue Against the Luciferians, 28

      So my question is: if someone tomorrow wakes up, decides that all of Christianity has been misunderstanding the Gospel, and decides to form his own church, is this action defensible? Is it possible that the Holy Spirit has permitted the entire Church to fall into heresy such that the very schism that Paul damns in Galatians 5 is now a Christian’s duty? And does the answer to that question matter if it’s 1519, 1819, or 2019?

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. Hi Nathan and thanks for your thoughtful reply to my comment. I wish to clarify two things–I do not think that there is no need for dialogue, even on sensitive issues, in fact just the opposite. We need it desperately and I commend your efforts towards that goal. And when I say that the Reformation is “over” I am not suggesting that that the differences which have existed have been resolved or should be ignored. That was not my point here.

      My belief though is that ecumenical dialogue must start with the view and attitude that neither side are the “only Christians” here, and that it is possible to love our Lord Jesus Christ and yet still have vastly divergent views. Many of us who have posted on this thread and are now Roman Catholic were once parts of various other belief systems in the past, and sincerely loved God during our evangelical or otherwise Protestant years (35 for me). I had been a well-catechized cradle Catholic, an altar server, and frankly hoped at one point to become a priest. Instead I ended up becoming an Assemblies of God minister as well as later going a number of other directions in my life, eventually divorcing and becoming involved in GLBT and other activism.

      Had I only realized that Sacred Tradition (and again I differentiate here between what Jesus calls “traditions of men,” which virtually all Christians, including Catholic, tend to fall into at times, but rather the authoritative and universal Council and Papal proclamations, beginning with the Council in Jerusalem in the book of Acts and onward to and through the 2nd Vatican Council and beyond) was a vital and essential part of the interpretation and contextual process in reading and studying the Biblical texts, and not just developing my own very sincere but deeply flawed interpretations of Sacred Scripture as I eventually did, I could have spared myself, my former wife, and a whole lot of others much pain and suffering. In short “being my own Pope” did not help my walk with Christ.

      Truthfully if Luther had understood and/or accepted this he too could have spared us all much pain as well, to say nothing of the blood which was shed on both sides as a result of Reformation and post-Reformation eras once the downward spiral started.

      That is not an attack on Luther or his character. In saying this I would dare not judge his soul. God knows what struggles he was having, his sincerity level, and the like. I do not. But those are not the issues which are particularly useful to focus upon anyway, since they simply are not provable one way or another. In that sense only, the Reformation is indeed over and should be. The bloody and even word attacks have to be laid aside at some point in order to even hear one another. That was my real and essential point here. And I therefore start with the assumption of sincerity of other baptized Christian believers unless proven otherwise. What bothers me is that Mohler apparently does not seem to see that at times. And I find that sadly disappointing. And yes, I have seen some Catholic brothers and sisters do the same thing.

  9. As someone else said on this blog, if it’s true that if you’re a Christian you’ll do good works, then the contrapositive MUST be true: if you don’t do good works then you aren’t a Christian.

    Repentence is necessary for salvation. How does one repent of sins of omission without doing whatever it was you should have done ie good works in the first place?

    And Lutherans do good works! As I said elsewhere, even if they have a heretic’s tongue, the callouses on their hands are thoroughly orthodox. They might preach easy-believism, but they don’t live it. Thank God.

    The Bible says to people who thought their works would save them, that they are justified by faith not works.

    Then it says to another group that thought they were saved by faith alone that they are justified by works, not believing only.

    Is it that hard to figure out we need faith and works joined into one flesh namely ours?

  10. This is one of those cases where it is both/and. It is not either/or without twisting Scripture and contradicting the Word of God.

    We are justified by faith apart from works.
    We are also justified by works.

    Scripture is clear and can’t be broken:
    Romans 3:28
    Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    James 2:24
    Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

    It may surprise many of you that the Catholic Church does NOT teach that we are justified by faith and works. The INFALLIBLE Teaching says:

    TRENT VI
    CHAPTER VIII
    HOW THE GRATUITOUS JUSTIFICATION OF THE SINNER BY FAITH IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD

    But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely,[44] these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God[45] and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification.

    For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the Apostle says, grace is no more grace.[46]

    Here is where it is vital to understand Catholic Doctrine before you begin to read Scripture.

    St. Paul does not contradict St. James.

    St. Paul, in various places, describes the necessity of works for justification before God (Rom 2:1-13 is probably the most clear example).

    And he also describes justification by the Sacraments. Namely Baptism. Which can be described as justification by faith apart from works because God does all the work. All that we do, is believe.

    So, how do we explain the Catholic Teaching that we are not actually justified by faith and works?

    Well, justification is the work of God. We can’t justify ourselves by anything which we do. God does it all. But, to say, “we are justified by faith and works” is a manner of speaking which describes that God will justify those who do the works which He commands. Namely, the Ten Commandments.

    The Sacraments are works of God which are not applied to any, except those who are keeping the Ten Commandments. That is why we don’t approach the font of grace unless we are in a state of grace. That includes our approach to Baptism. Because, before we approach Baptism, we must seek God in good faith, repent of our sins and begin to keep the Commandments.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  11. My reaction to this debate is only sadness.

    A few years ago I attended a “non-debate” on the same subject. Leaders of a Protestant and Catholic church agreed for their flocks to meet to talk about what they believe. The subjects to be talked about included Marian devotion, Sola Scriptura and Scripture &Tradition, and Faith Alone and Faith & Works. The format was for one member of each church to explain what they believe and why (which heavily referenced Scripture). No debate; no references to “what the other said.” Topic after topic presented, with questions afterward.

    On the subject of Faith, both presented what they believed and then the priest (Fr. John Riccardo) interrupted. Taking the podium he asked the crowd of over 2,000: “Did you hear what they just said? He said this and this and this, and then she said this and this and this. Did you hear it? They said the same thing! We believe the same thing!!” And there was dead silence in the church.

    Then spontaneously everyone rose and applauded; people hugged and cried. That evening was recorded; you can buy a CD of the event, That They May Be One, at Ave Maria Radio’s website.

    Even with your wisdom, you could learn much from it.

    In this time of the world’s descent into darkness, we MUST discuss our faith, but I much prefer reactions of joy, than of sadness.

    1. The Word of God says:
      Proverbs 27:17
      Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

      There is a time for everything in this world. There is a time for non-debate. There is also a time for debate.

      I like them both:
      1 Peter 3:14-16
      King James Version (KJV)
      14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

      2 Timothy 4
      King James Version (KJV)
      1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
      5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

      Acts 17:2
      And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

      Sincerely,

      De Maria

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