But Only God Can Forgive Sins!

Gebhard Fugel, Christ Heals the Sick (1885)
Gebhard Fugel, Christ Heals the Sick (1885)

The Catholic Church teaches that the Apostles were given the ability to forgive penitents of their sins. One of the frequent objections to this is that “It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21; Matthew 9:3). That line’s from the Bible, but it’s the Scribes and Pharisees raising the objection. So it’s a bit like using the line “Eat, drink, and be merry!” without being aware that Jesus cited it negatively (Luke 12:19).

Nevertheless, the simple fact that this Protestant objection was originally a Pharisaic objection isn’t enough to disprove it.

CARM’s Matt Slick acknowledges the origins of the phrase, but claims (falsely) that Jesus affirmed it:

Jesus forgave sins, and the Scribes, the students of the Law, rightly stated that only God forgives sins. If they were wrong about that, then why didn’t Jesus correct them? Instead, He affirms their claim, states He has the authority to forgive sins, and then heals the paralytic. [….] So, John 20:23 is not saying that Catholic priests have the authority to forgive sins. It is saying that Christian disciples have the authority to pronounce what sins “have been forgiven.”

John MacArthur makes a similar argument, but actually spells out some reasons:

Only God can do this. It is an abomination. It is a perversion. It is sin for us to pervert what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust, what is innocence and what is guilt. For we have no way to cover sin. Only God can be the forgiver because He has provided the substitute sacrifice. He is the Holy One offended. He is the judge, the lawgiver, the executioner, the only one therefore with the power and authority to pardon the guilty sinner. And that is the message of Christianity. That is the singular heart and soul of the gospel, the good news, that God will forgive your sins.

So let’s take a look at the Scriptural passage, and you can see for yourself whether the Apostles were given the authority to forgive sins. Matthew 9:2-8 describes it this way:

And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, take up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

So let’s recap:

  1. Jesus forgives the paralytic of his sins.
  2. The Scribes (Luke mentions the Pharisees as well) object that this idea of men forgiving sins is blasphemous.
  3. Jesus doesn’t respond by revealing His Divinity.
  4. Rather, He responds by claiming that He has the authority to forgive sins.
  5. Jesus proposes a test to prove that He has the ability to forgive sins: His ability to perform miraculous physical healings points to His ability to invisibly forgive sins.
  6. After He successfully heals the paralytic of his physical ailments, the people glory God for giving such authority to men.

So if the Apostles and their successors can forgive sins, what should we be looking for? First, we should look for some sign that Jesus passed on His authority. Second, we should look to see whether or not the Apostles could substantiate their alleged ability to forgive sins. So do we see those two things?

I. Does Christ Pass On His Own Authority?

After the Resurrection, we see at least three instances of Christ entrusting the Apostles with His own authority. First, there’s the end of Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20):

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

In the Great Commission, the Apostles are (and by extension, the Church is) commissioned in Christ’s own authority.

Second, immediately before the Ascension, He says to them (Acts 1:6-8):

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, in turn (John 16:13), “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” So Christ is imparting His authority through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

This point shouldn’t be overlooked: although the Holy Spirit is Himself Divine, as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, Christ presents Him as acting through Christ’s own authority. Compare this to John 8:28, in which He says: “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.” So the Second Person of the Trinity acts on the Authority of the First, and the Third acts on the authority of the Second, and none of this implies that the Second or Third Persons are less omnipotent or Sovereign. It’s Divine humility, and might be part of the explanation for why Christ presents Himself as acting on authority, rather than directly claiming the sovereign authority to forgive sins.

Finally, and most specifically, we see Jesus empower and commission the Apostles on Easter Sunday itself, specifically giving them the authority to forgive sins (John 20:19-23):

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Why does Christ claim the power to forgive sins? Because He has authority given to Him, as He is sent by the Father. And here, He sends the Apostles, and gives them the authority to forgive sins.

So that’s the first of the two things we should be looking for. What about the other?

II. Do the Apostles Perform Miracles?

If you’ve read the Book of Acts, you already know the answer to this. The Apostles are repeatedly presented as performing miracles, but there’s one in particular worth mentioning, Acts 3:1-10,

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

So in the name of Jesus Christ — that is, in the Name of the One who gave them authority — Peter miraculously heals a man. Now recall Christ’s words, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?

Even the Scribes and Pharisees recognized that it would be absurd to say that Jesus could perform healing miracles but couldn’t forgive sins: the healing miracles are signs of the miraculous internal transformations brought about by forgiveness. But that’s exactly the kind of absurd mental contortion you would have to go through to claim that the Apostles could cause a lame man to walk, but couldn’t forgive his sins. In other words, to Jesus’ obviously-rhetorical “which is easier” question, you would have to give the answer He obviously didn’t intend; and that’s a refusal to believe that we don’t see even the Scribes or Pharisees willing to publicly commit.

Conclusion

The Scribes, Pharisees, and Protestants are right that it belongs to God, by right, to forgive sins, just as it belongs to God, by right, to heal the lame. But it would be an arbitrary restriction on God’s sovereignty if He couldn’t give others the authority to act in His Name. The Father gives such authority to the Son. The Son gives such authority to the Holy Spirit, and to the Apostles and the Church (it’s worth noting here in passing that in Luke 10:16, Jesus tells the Seventy He sends out, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me”).

 

Sins aren’t forgiven in the priest’s own name, just as miracles aren’t performed in the priest’s own name. Here’s the formula for absolution:

God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, just as Peter worked the healing of the lame man in the Name of Jesus, the priest works the healing of the wounded soul in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

76 Comments

  1. How does someone ignore the plain language of John 20:19-23? I don’t understand it. It’s as though the “sola scriptura” is meaningless and we can ignore the plain language of scripture along with the implications contained in scripture which support the plain language. Don’t forget, Protestantism is built upon the rejection of the priesthood so anything referencing the priesthood must be wrong. Of course, such belief isn’t supported by history or any rational reading of scripture. It’s more about personal power and creating a Christianity out of your own thoughts and interpretations than any fidelity to history.

  2. Thanks for bringing this all together, Joe.

    Clayton, Protestants are classic ‘cafeteria Christians’. They are all about literal interpretation until they’re not; then it’s all about the Spirit personally speaking to them in their heart. It not only about rejecting the priesthood, it’s really about rejecting Catholicism. In their minds, as long as they are refuting Catholicism, they are on good ground; therefore, they are correct in whatever they think the bible is telling them. When one starts with the conclusion and then looks for evidence that points to it, it is easy to ignore any arguments which refute it. In short, Protestantism.

  3. I would have to agree with some people here that Protestants do not really give a fair hearing to John 20, Matt 18, and the other binding and loosing sort of verses. And, I think Joe makes a fair distinction. Indeed, it is God that forgives sins (“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins,” Is 43:25). The question is whether God can use human intermediaries as His means to bring it about. Surely, the Levitical priesthood at least on the surface served this function (as obviously, their true purpose was to point to Christ’s intermediary work on the cross.)

    Let me just add that I think the proper context in which to understand Matt 18 is in the context of church discipline. This is explicit in the discussion therein, and the church discipline is exercised in the local church. However, this does not get shopping-mall Protestants off the hook, as they pick and choose churches and don’t care if a church disciplines them, they can just go to another. I think Matt 18 is clear, if one is cast out of the church Christ is there with those who discipline in you. Those cast out, like the man in 1 Cor 5, are thrust out to be with Satan and unless they repent, are damned.

    I think John 20 is a separate discussion and being that Joe’s go-to move to get thousands of views and over 100 comments is to start a drag-out brawl over disputable matters, I’ll keep my comments short because I am not interested in debating this topic right now due to the tone that those who have disagreed me have increasingly adopted. I will add, and give everyone the last word on, is one reflection on John 20. It pertains specifically to the apostles. And so, when we take John 20 as a proof-text that this means a Catholic priest binds and looses sins, we have to be honest with what we read into the passage which isn’t there (the concept of Apostolic Succession and the exclusion of interpretations* that do not require the concept.) I think that the testimony of church history that John 20 has implications pertaining to the priesthood is pervasive enough where I respect the viewpoint, but would simply want to point out that it is not a forgone conclusion based upon the text itself.

    God bless,
    Craig

    * “Two ways the apostles and ministers of Christ remit and retain sin, and both as having authority:—[1.] By sound doctrine. They are commissioned to tell the world that salvation is to be had upon gospel terms, and no other, and they shall find God will say Amen to it; so shall their doom be. [2.] By a strict discipline, applying the general rule of the gospel to particular persons. “Whom you admit into communion with you, according to the rules of the gospel, God will admit into communion with himself; and whom you cast out of communion as impenitent, and obstinate in scandalous and infectious sins, shall be bound over to the righteous judgment of God.” (Matthew Henry, John 20:21)

    1. Craig Truglia says:
      February 25, 2016 at 3:16 am
      I would have to agree with some people here that Protestants do not really give a fair hearing to John 20, Matt 18, and the other binding and loosing sort of verses. And, I think Joe makes a fair distinction. Indeed, it is God that forgives sins (“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins,” Is 43:25). The question is whether God can use human intermediaries as His means to bring it about.

      Whether God CAN use human intermediaries as HIS means to bring this about?

      Are you serious? God became man. God created all that exists with but a word. God can do anything which you consider impossible.

      Matthew 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

      2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

      There! Scripture is telling you that God brings this about through human intermediaries.

      Surely, the Levitical priesthood at least on the surface served this function (as obviously, their true purpose was to point to Christ’s intermediary work on the cross.)

      And the Christian priesthood’s function is to be Christ among us.
      Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

      Let me just add that I think the proper context in which to understand Matt 18 is in the context of church discipline.

      Since when does Church discipline exclude the committing of sins?

      This is explicit in the discussion therein, and the church discipline is exercised in the local church.

      Yeah, the bulk of it is done in the Confessional. Have you ever read in Scripture:
      Hebrews 13:17King James Version (KJV)

      17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

      However, this does not get shopping-mall Protestants off the hook, as they pick and choose churches and don’t care if a church disciplines them, they can just go to another. I think Matt 18 is clear, if one is cast out of the church Christ is there with those who discipline in you. Those cast out, like the man in 1 Cor 5, are thrust out to be with Satan and unless they repent, are damned.

      Agreed. Because the Priests speak for Christ. They are “in persona Christi”. That is the constant Catholic Teaching.

      I think

      You have juxtaposed your thoughts vs the Catholic Church’s absolute Truth. Don’t get upset when we demolish your thought.

      John 20 is a separate discussion

      It’s not separate. It is precisely about the Confessional.

      and being that Joe’s go-to move to get thousands of views and over 100 comments is to start a drag-out brawl over disputable matters, I’ll keep my comments short because I am not interested in debating this topic right now due to the tone that those who have disagreed me have increasingly adopted.

      The tone is disagreement. You expect us to respond like fellow Protestants, who discover their doctrines everytime they debate about them. But we’re not Protestant. We have the Word of God. We won’t trade it for the word of Craig.

      I will add, and give everyone the last word on, is one reflection on John 20. It pertains specifically to the apostles. And so, when we take John 20 as a proof-text that this means a Catholic priest binds and looses sins, we have to be honest with what we read into the passage which isn’t there (the concept of Apostolic Succession and the exclusion of interpretations* that do not require the concept.

      If you want us to be honest, you should begin with yourself.

      First. We don’t read the Bible alone. We have a Tradition which circumscribes and produced the New Testament and we read our Bible within that Tradition. That Tradition says that a Catholic Priest binds and looses sins.

      Second. You, since you have no concept of Church discipline, begin with a preconceived doctrine of private interpretation. Thus, add to and take from the text, whatever you want, although there is no mention of those additions and subtractions.

      Third. We don’t believe in Scripture alone. It is a false doctrine.

      Fourth. We read Scripture according to the Sacred Tradition of Jesus Christ which, in the case of this passage, holds that Catholic priests bind and loose sins.

      I think that the testimony of church history that John 20 has implications pertaining to the priesthood is pervasive enough where I respect the viewpoint, but would simply want to point out that it is not a forgone conclusion based upon the text itself.

      And I would like to point out that you are simply stating your own fallible opinion. We believe the Catholic Church which is the final and infallible authority on all Christian Doctrine.

      God bless,
      Craig

      You as well.

      * “Two ways the apostles and ministers of Christ remit and retain sin, and both as having authority:—[1.] By sound doctrine. They are commissioned to tell the world that salvation is to be had upon gospel terms, and no other, and they shall find God will say Amen to it; so shall their doom be. [2.] By a strict discipline, applying the general rule of the gospel to particular persons. “Whom you admit into communion with you, according to the rules of the gospel, God will admit into communion with himself; and whom you cast out of communion as impenitent, and obstinate in scandalous and infectious sins, shall be bound over to the righteous judgment of God.” (Matthew Henry, John 20:21)

      This is a third way. By the Ministry of Reconciliation in the Sacrament of Confession.

      1. Craig Truglia says:
        February 25, 2016 at 3:16 am

        being that Joe’s go-to move to get thousands of views and over 100 comments is to start a drag-out brawl over disputable matters,

        Protestants, like yourself, have proven that they will dispute anything. No matter how much evidence is against them. You dispute so much that you don’t even realize that you sometimes dispute your own opinions, from one article, to the next.

        I’ll keep my comments short because I am not interested in debating this topic right now

        That sounds like a clever little ruse to enable you to proselytize, unhindered. Do you really think that we are interested in debating with you? Why don’t you get used to the fact, that if you post opinions which are contrary to the beliefs of those expressed in the forum, you will foment debate?

        due to the tone that those who have disagreed me have increasingly adopted.

        You mean that we have become more adamant in explaining our unchanging position in favor of the Catholic Church and against yours. Especially since you’ve been here, repeating the same errors, for over a year now.

        we have to be honest with what we read into the passage which isn’t there (the concept of Apostolic Succession and the exclusion of interpretations* that do not require the concept.

        You first. Why don’t you be honest and admit that you are reading into the text, your anti-Catholic presuppositions and biases?

        1. De Maria,

          Even though we agree in substance, I find your tone snarky and uncharitable to the point of being counterproductive. I have to imagine that if I weren’t a Catholic, I would want less to become one after reading things like this. You can’t just taunt people into the Church.

          I.X.,

          Joe

          1. Thanks for expressing your opinion, Joe. Forgive me if I don’t agree. I believe my evaluation of his tone and arguments are right on the money. And I don’t believe that such an evaluation should be sugar coated. That would just give mixed messages.

            I have come across people before, who think that Christians and Catholics, must always be always tolerant, broadminded and accept every argument that comes down the pike. I disagree. In fact, I don’t believe that to be a charitable attitude. I follow Christ:

            Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!

            Perhaps some think that Christ was snarky and uncharitable for speaking out against errors. I don’t.

            But again, you have a right to your opinion.

          2. I am also inclined to agree concerning De Maria’s tone.

            While I am inclined to agree with De Maria’s assessment of Craig’s intentions, I heartily disagree with the approach.

          3. I *am* a Catholic, and I find DeMaria’s arrogance and nastiness an embarrassment. I’ve stayed away from this site for months at a time because of the way he’s allowed to run rampant. I know it’s your blog, but I really think he need limits set.

          4. Everyone should already know that Craig is both tough and smart. De Maria is likewise. I enjoy both of their arguments and the tones don’t bother me a bit. I consider it good apologetics on both sides. And tough apologetics is always better than ‘sugar coated’ apologetics, as De Maria referred to. Without the contributions of both Craig and De Maria, this site would be a lot less interesting.

            I’d say keep up the good conversation to both of them! 🙂

          5. De Maria,

            In the past, the comments section here was much livelier, in the sense of more people participating – asking questions and getting good answers. That’s not as much the case any more. Part of that is on me: I blog less, I moderate comments less, I respond to comments less. But part of it is also that people don’t feel comfortable asking questions or raising objections because they’re going to be attacked, or because you and the person you’re tangling with have 100+ comments between you (many of which are repetitive or devoid of substance).

            I hope that the comments of others (Alex, Charlotte, Craig, and various people who have either e-mailed me or written about SP articles/comments on other sites) are enough to persuade you that your tone is alienating and harmful to the Body of Christ.

            Literally the one person who has endorsed your tactics so far is a guy who already agrees with you.

            By all means, there’s nothing wrong with debating out the real issues. But I’ve had enough of the ad hominems and so have other people. If you’re literally causing people not to read the site at all because of your own noxious behavior, that’s something for which you’ll be accountable. And even if it’s not sinful, it’s not the atmosphere that I’ve made the effort to create and sustain here.

            So I’ll close with two things. First, please continue to comment here on the condition that you stop these personal attacks. If you feel the need to be nasty, do it on your own blog. Second, “Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

            I.X.,

            Joe
            The other concern that I have is that these nasty one-on-one attacks end up monopolizing the comments section.

    2. Craig,

      You said:

      “I think John 20 is a separate discussion and being that Joe’s go-to move to get thousands of views and over 100 comments is to start a drag-out brawl over disputable matters, I’ll keep my comments short because I am not interested in debating this topic right now due to the tone that those who have disagreed me have increasingly adopted.”

      I share your displeasure with the tone sometimes taken (on both sides, although I’m probably more critical of it when we Catholics are the ones at fault), but I assure you that I’m not choosing ambiguous passages to get page views or start fights.

      Rather, I try to present the Catholic position in response to various (Protestant, Orthodox, or non-Christian) objections. These are necessarily “disputable matters,” in that these are matters that are (in fact) disputed. That doesn’t mean that John 20 is particularly ambiguous, though. I think that the passage is plenty clear if there aren’t paradigmatic or theological blinders that preclude it from possibly meaning what it says.

      In other words, every Protestant should be able to admit that they can at least see how Catholics and Orthodox read the passage the way that they do, since our reading is a straightforward one. The converse is more difficult, because accepting the Protestant view (that forgiving people their sins really means telling people that their sins are already forgiven) requires particular theological presuppositions (e.g. God can’t give authority to men to forgive sins). Or to approach it differently, if a newcomer (without any particular views on this question) were to read this text, how would they interpret it?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. Jeffrey Allen,

        I would take the Augustinian view of Heb 6. I don’t think God can lose anyone whom He has predestined. Those who fall away in Heb 6 appear to be false converts who were baptized (“illumined,” Heb 6:4), and have heard the word of God (Heb 6:5), but then have fallen away. As John says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

        I don’t think it is possible for the believer to discern his or her eternal destiny in which to know he is a true or false convert, so one must always keep his eyes on Christ. So, I don’t think God’s election gives us any additional grounds of confidence against falling away other than knowing that our salvation is purely by the grace of God.

        God bless,
        Craig

        Chap 33, On the Predestination of the Saints, Augustine:

        Those who belong to this calling are all teachable by God; nor can any of them say, I believed in order to being thus called, because the mercy of God anticipated him, because he was so called in order that he might believe. For all who are teachable of God come to the Son because they have heard and learned from the Father through the Son, who most clearly says, Every one who has heard of the Father, and has learned, comes unto me. John 6:45 But of such as these none perishes, because of all that the Father has given Him, He will lose none. John 6:39 Whoever, therefore, is of these does not perish at all; nor was any who perishes ever of these. For which reason it is said, They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would certainly have continued with us. John 2:19

        1. I believe there is a logical fallacy implied in your post Craig. Nobody doubts what God can do, the issue is whether what God does. Single predestination is much different than double predestination. I believe your post implies Augustine supported double predestination which is incorrect given the context of Augustine’s writings. Protestanism split the mystery and decided that double predestination exists. People lose grace all the time in scripture. One would have to reject all of early Christianity to conclude that grace can’t be lost given the sacerdotal nature of early Christian history (through today).

          1. Clayton, I do not see where you infer double predestination from my remarks. It appears you are reading into something that is not in my response. As for the existence of sacerdotal functions and the idea that grace can be lost, I disagree. Augustine plainly wrote as I quoted that those God has predestined cannot be lost, and those who did fall away were never really in God’s grace to begin with. This does not contradict sacerdotalism, though I am not here to defend the idea. Augustine taught that God gives the grace to all whom He has predestined to partake in the necessary sacraments to absolve sin and persevere in the faith. If you are interested in how these ideas can be reconciled I recommend Augustine’s On Predestination and On the Perseverance of the Saints.

          2. So am I correct you reject double predestination?

            I have no idea how you can square history with the concept that grace can’t be lost. If grace couldn’t be lost we wouldn’t need it through the sacraments. In fact, such a position trivializes the Mass which is the heart and soul of Catholicism IMO.

          3. Craig
            Maybe for Augustine “grace” and “salvation” meant the same thing. I know that the council of Trent did not positively define “grace”.

        2. Craig – I don’t think it is possible for the believer to discern his or her eternal destiny in which to know he is a true or false convert, so one must always keep his eyes on Christ. So, I don’t think God’s election gives us any additional grounds of confidence against falling away other than knowing that our salvation is purely by the grace of God.

          Me – I’m confused on what you believe. Are you saying that one can lose their salvation? What exactly do you mean by fall away?

          1. At her trial Joan of Arc was asked if she was in a state of grace- she answered “If I am not in the state of grace, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.”

        3. Craig,
          Is it possible that the “elect” or “predestined” are those who never lose God’s grace or regain it before death? I know that the Old Testament prophets would first make a sin offering. The same with saints – when they prayed they would first ask for God’s forgiveness.

        4. I think your quote from St. Augustine can be interpreted one of two ways. Either, everyone who is elect will be saved in the end, AND will persevere in the state of grace the entire time; OR everyone who is elect will be saved in the end, and may or may not lose the state of grace temporarily along the way.

          As a Catholic, I support the second option. In support (quotes from Douay-Rheims translation):

          Galatians 5:4 “You are made void of Christ, you who are justified in the law: you have fallen from grace.”

          Three possible outs:

          1. They had never received grace in the first place: This is not a possible position, as Paul says they have fallen from grace. You cannot fall from something that you didn’t have.
          2. They had received grace, but not enough to be saved: This is not a possible position, as Paul says they have fallen, who try to be justified by the law of Moses. If they had only received some grace, but not enough to be saved, Paul could not rightly say that they had fallen, only deprived.
          3. They fell from grace, but didn’t lose their salvation: This is not a possible position, as it denies salvation by grace alone — something we as Catholic agree upon with you.
          4. They fell from grace, proving that they weren’t elect: This is not a possible position, as Paul’s warning would be wasted breath on them. He would instead say “They have fallen from grace.”

          In the end, reformulating the doctrine of the perseverance of the Saints to match the following conclusions, while it does not make it untrue, makes it unhelpful to console souls in their salvation. Instead, the doctrine of conditional preservation — agreed upon by Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, etc. — is the more meaningful doctrine. All of the Elect are indeed saved in the last day, but it is possible that they should fall away temporarily. Also, it is not possible, apart from a divine revelation, to know with absolute certainty who these elect are until they reach heaven. Therefore, we need to watch and make sure to persevere in the faith by the power of the Grace of God until the last day, or else we too shall be cut off.

          Romans 11:22 “See then the goodness and the severity of God: towards them indeed that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee, the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

  4. What is a true and pure religion?

    “Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one’s self UNSPOTTED from this world.” (James 1:27)

    How does one keep himself unspotted from the world?

    The sacrament of baptism is a visible sign that washes away our sins (Acts 22:16). However, after we receive baptism, we all fall and commit sins again. How then do these subsequent sins get removed? Unfortunately, rebaptism is not an option for removing these sins.

    That’s where the sacrament of penance comes in. If baptism is a VISIBLE SIGN that removes original and other sins, those sins that come after baptism can only be remitted by another VISIBLE SIGN. This then is how a Christian can keep himself unspotted from the world.

    What then of Protestants who deny the authority of the Catholic Church to forgive sins? They fulfill the prophecy by Paul concerning the last days:

    “Know also this, that, in the last days, shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked, Without affection, without peace, SLANDERERS, incontinent, unmerciful, without kindness, Traitors, stubborn, puffed up, and lovers of pleasures more than of God: HAVING AN APPEARANCE OF GODLINESS, BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF. Now these avoid. For of these sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, who are led away with divers desires: Ever learning, and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

    This prophecy fits Protestantism. They “appear” godly because they preach from the Bible all the time. They always talk about sin and the forgiveness of sins. And yet, they DENY THE POWER OF GODLINESS by admitting that they have no power to forgive sins. For who alone can forgive sins but God? And for what were the keys of binding and loosing on earth as it is heaven given by Christ to Peter if the keys do not refer to forgiveness of sins?

    And if the original apostles alone were meant to possess this power, that means no one on earth right now has that power, for all the apostles have long been dead.

    That means no sin had been forgiven since the last apostle died.

    Hell would be pretty crowded if that were the case for the last 2,000 years.

    If Protestantism were true…. why should anyone believe what the Bible says?

  5. Craig,
    After reading several different translations of John 20:23, and considering the circumstances of the event (Jesus post-resurrection appearance to the apostles minus Thomas and Judas), it seems the most accurate phrasing would be “If you forgive people’s sins, God also forgives them, and they remain forgiven.” You suggest that the authority delegated in John 20:23 pertains “only to the apostles”. It then necessarily follows from your statement that Jesus did in fact delegate to some humans the authority to forgive sins. Let’s work from your conclusion.

    First, can we agree that such a delegation must have been necessary?

    If this authority was to be limited to the apostles, then it was necessarily limited to the duration of their lives. But I can find no scriptural or factual or divine reason for this limitation. The Triune God of Eternity was no less present and available to forgive sins during their lifetimes than he would be after their deaths. Jesus words did not limit the duration of his delegation to either a specific time period, nor is it suggested anywhere that Jesus desire was for this power to be constrained to the remaining lives of these apostles. So it seems to me that a limitation to just these apostles is not necessary to any of the salvation story.

    Perhaps God concluded that the apostles would complete the entirety of His work in their short lifetimes such that once they were gone, there would no longer exist in the world any need for this type of extraordinary authority. But this conclusion does not seem to be borne out by history. And one must accept that Jesus was fully aware of the history to come. And one could probably argue that it was His knowledge of the “history to come’ that was the necessity for this specific and remarkable delegation.

    And what of those to whom these apostles would not be able to meet or see in person. As remarkable as they were, was it really the expectation of Jesus that these 11 would be sufficient, in their own number, to see, visit, evangelize, and forgive the sins of every new Christian in their lifetimes?

    Leaving aside other scripture regarding apostolic succession and the delegation of other authority, it seems illogical, unreasonable, and unnecessary to read the delegation of authority in John 20:23 as limited only to the 11.

    1. There’s evidence for apostolic succession in the Act 1:12-26. St. Peter actually quotes Psalms for his reasoning behind picking a successor to Judas. They narrow it down to two candidates and then “cast lots” to determine who the successor was. Matthias is named to replace.

      To me this reinforces that John 20:23 was not limited to just 11 people, but rather the offices they hold. It also incidentally reinforces that St. Peter was the head since he was the one who authoritatively spoke about a replacement.

      I’m sure you were thinking about it, but I wanted to throw it out there. It’s not just logic that dictates that it’s the offices, but it’s also in the Bible. The two together should be enough evidence, but people still object to what seems to me as being rather obvious.

  6. De Maria, I cant much detect a ‘tone’ the way my wife nails me for my tone so i like reading your responses. I visit the site in part to see how you bring your argument along with scripture to the discussion. Thanks.

  7. Joe,
    I read in the Catholic catechism that all people are participants in the priesthood of Christ. Is this a more recent interpretation?

    1. Jeffrey,

      No, that idea is as old as the Church, and is mentioned in the New Testament. Christ is the only true Priest; but all the baptized participate in His priesthood through Baptism, and the ordained participate in His priesthood in a greater way through ordination.

  8. Joe,

    Perhaps one aspect of sin and forgiveness that we moderns have lost sense of, primarily because of the superstition of scientism that pervades modern culture, is the sense of sin as cause for disease. In Jesus’ era, Jews believed that sicknes, deformation, or disabilities were caused by sin:

    “And Jesus passing by, saw a man, who was blind from his birth: And his disciples asked him:
    Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?
    Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents;
    but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:1-3)

    The question does not make sense unless we realize that the apostles as Jews believed that men are sinners from the time they were conceived (Psalms 51:1). They also knew that God exacts payment from the children for the sins of their parents (Exodus 20:5-6; 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18). Then there’s the story of Job who was afflicted with all sorts of skin disease, and whose friends advise him to confess his sins, they believing that his sufferings came from some secret sin.

    The reply of Jesus in verse 3 is not a refutation of these scriptural beliefs. Rather, Jesus explains that in this particular case, the cause of the man’s blindness comes not from sin, but from God’s purpose to reveal the works of God. In a previous healing miracle, Jesus instructs the man whom he healed to stop sinning, therefore implying that his illness was caused by his sins:

    “Jesus saith to him: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole: and he took up his bed, and walked. And it was the sabbath that day. The Jews therefore said to him that was healed: It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed. He answered them: He that made me whole, he said to me, Take up thy bed, and walk. They asked him therefore: Who is that man who said to thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? But he who was healed, knew not who it was; for Jesus went aside from the multitude standing in the place. Afterwards, Jesus findeth him in the temple, and saith to him:

    Behold thou art made whole: SIN NO MORE, lest some worse thing happen to thee.

    The man went his way, and told the Jews, that it was Jesus who had made him whole.” (John 5:8-15)

    To those who were witnessing the healing miracles of Jesus, they not only saw a physical healing. They also saw the destructiion of the cause that produced disease and illnesses. They saw sin itself and the effects of sin being annihilated before their eyes.

    “He that commmitteth sin is of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)

    Therefore, to see the miraculous healings of Jesus as just mere physical acts that address physical problems, and fail to see them as spiritual attacks against sin, is to lose sight of the bigger picture. The healings of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins are two sides of the same coin. They both manifest the power of God.

  9. Craig – Ck, to clarify, none who are predestined can fall away. Many with false professions of faith do. This was the position that I quoted Augustine on.

    Me – If one claims to be saved based on false professions of faith then they were never saved to begin with. There is nothing to fall away from. You can’t lose something you never had. I’m trying to understand your position (I have not read all of St. Augustine’s writings).

    So can one who is not predestined be justified/saved/sanctified at any point in their life?

    Thanks.

    1. Jeff and CK, I am legitimately challenged in formulating a written response, as though i am not a catholic, augustinianism is within the pale of Catholicism, so I am being forced to square a view of predestination with a view of sacerdotalism I do not personally believe in but Augustine did. I will do my best to offer a response which I think accurately presents augustinianism. So, I am going to need to convey nuance in a way the written word does not allow me. I’ll respond in a couple hours.

      1. Craig in what way is someone who believes in sola scriptura allowed to offer nuance in a way scripture doesn’t allow you to offer? Are you a prophet? Or perhaps a teacher?

      2. I think the big issue is whether you believe in double predestination instead of your personal interpretation of Augustine.

        Do you believe in double predestination? If the answer is no then I’m not sure there is any real debate. If the answer is yes, then I think there is a much larger issue about grace (and history).

        I’m looking for what you believe, not what you think Augustine believed.

        1. Clayton, I did answer that question in the video. I said that I am not a predestinarian, which means, I do not believe God compels anyone to do evil–though clearly He wills men to commit evil, because He ordains it. There is a difference.

          1. Hi Craig,

            Thanks for your thoughts. I’d like to correct one thing. God does not will evil. He allows it of course, but he doesn’t will it. He does not will or deny it to occur. He “nothings” it if you will. (No pun intended). This may seem like semantics but I think it’s an important distinction.

            Regards

          2. Trogos,

            I would disagree. Clearly God wills that evil exists. Augustine wrote “God discerned it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit its existence at all.” We can see this principle work out it Is 45:7, the fact that God raises up nations as judgment against other nations, and then raises up more nations to judge the sins of those nations which He knows they will commit.

            Augustine has a very thorough discussion of the existence of evil in the Handbook of Faith, Hope, and Love.

            God bless,
            Craig

          3. Craig

            I hope we’re not talking past one another. Your quote from Augustine shows my point. God allows evil. He brings good out of evil. But to say God wills, say brutal ISIS persecution and sex slavery is wrong to say. He set the universe in motion and willed that free will would exist and then as a result evil would exist. But He doesn’t will the evil act to occur.

          4. Thanks for your response Craig. I believe you said that there is no example in Scripture of a predestined person losing their salvation. Adam and Eve lost their sanctifying grace, but are numbered with the saints. Do you think that original sin was ordained by God?

          5. Jeff and Trogos,

            To answer your questions, God works all things and all events in accordance with His will (Eph 1:11), including the ones you cite.

            For what could be said more plainly than what is actually said, “As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes?” [Rom 11:28] It is, therefore, in the power of the wicked to sin; but that in sinning they should do this or that by that wickedness is not in their power, but in God’s, who divides the darkness and regulates it; so that hence even what they do contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will (On Predestination of the Saints, Chapter 33).

            But the goodness of the Creator never fails either to supply life and vital power to the wicked angels (without which their existence would soon come to an end); or, in the case of mankind, who spring from a condemned and corrupt stock, to impart form and life to their seed, to fashion their members, and through the various seasons of their life, and in the different parts of the earth, to quicken their senses, and bestow upon them the nourishment they need. For He judged it better to bring good out of evil, than not to permit any evil to exist (The Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love, Chapter 27).

            Nor can we doubt that God does well even in the permission of what is evil. For He permits it only in the justice of His judgment. And surely all that is just is good. Although, therefore, evil, in so far as it is evil, is not a good; yet the fact that evil as well as good exists, is a good. For if it were not a good that evil should exist, its existence would not be permitted by the omnipotent Good, who without doubt can as easily refuse to permit what He does not wish, as bring about what He does wish (The Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love, Chapter 96).

          6. Craig I didn’t have a question, but thank you for the discourse. Everything you cited from Augustine agrees completely with my point. This is why I wanted to clear up the semantics. Now if Augustine used the word “wills” in place of the word permits in the aforementioned passages you would be correct. But he doesn’t. In chapter 33 Augustine is talking about how even the sinner is willed by God to exist. Therefore there is no power of sin over God. God does not will the idea and then the promulgation of rape in a person. If He willed it. It would be a necessary action. It is not a necessary action due to the persons free will. God willed the existence of the person, and He saw with a perfect timeless omniscience that the rape would occur. If you read chapter 33 the way you seem to be reading it, then the chapter makes no sense. Because Augustine says “…does what is contrary to Gods will be done except…” This would mean Augustine is contradicting himself.

          7. Trogos,

            I think you are misunderstanding something.

            Augustine writes:

            “…even what they do contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will (On Predestination of the Saints, Chapter 33).

            You write: “Now if Augustine used the word “wills” in place of the word permits in the aforementioned passages you would be correct. But he doesn’t.”

            So, you’re not exactly accurate with you summation of Augustine’s use of the word “will.”

            The issue here is ultimately the interpretation of Ephesians 1, and what Augustine wrote on the topic. Obviously, it is God’s will that people act contrary to His will. Reformed theologians call this His “decretive will.” This means that God decrees the existence of evil. Yet, when men do contrary to God’s will, this is in reference to what the Reformed call the “prescriptive will” of God. God prescribes morality, for example. Hence, evil obviously is in opposition to God’s prescriptive will, but not His decretive will.

            Personally, I am not a fan of these differentiations, which is why I just stuck with Augustinian (and Biblical) language and said that God wills everything without exception, because the fact of the matter is that He does. I hope though that these differentiations are useful to help understand the topic at hand.

            God bless,
            Craig

          8. I am sorry. I should’ve been more clear. The part when I talked about replacing the word permits with the word wills pertained to the following passages. I did not mean to apply it to chapter 33. Those two terms that you mentioned did help me understand where you are coming from. I do disagree with the use of them. I believe it convolutes the word “will”. But I know that in the Church we have words which are difficult on the modern English ear as well.

            But the goodness of the Creator never fails either to supply life and vital power to the wicked angels (without which their existence would soon come to an end); or, in the case of mankind, who spring from a condemned and corrupt stock, to impart form and life to their seed, to fashion their members, and through the various seasons of their life, and in the different parts of the earth, to quicken their senses, and bestow upon them the nourishment they need. For He judged it better to bring good out of evil, than not to permit any evil to exist (The Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love, Chapter 27).

            Nor can we doubt that God does well even in the permission of what is evil. For He permits it only in the justice of His judgment. And surely all that is just is good. Although, therefore, evil, in so far as it is evil, is not a good; yet the fact that evil as well as good exists, is a good. For if it were not a good that evil should exist, its existence would not be permitted by the omnipotent Good, who without doubt can as easily refuse to permit what He does not wish, as bring about what He does wish (The Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love, Chapter 96).

          9. Mike, I am not quite sure if I follow your comments. God works all things in accordance with His will. That’s what the Scripture says, to say anything happens that was not His will is to turn the Scripture into a liar.

            Trogos, I think in the end you are not exactly eye to eye with Augustine, as Augustine said clearly it is God’s will that people do not obey His will. I don’t think there is any getting around it without disagreeing with Augustine and by extension, disagreeing with Eph 1 on the matter.

            Protestants have the same difficulties ascertaining how God can will that evil exists. I find that those who oppose this idea ultimately don’t have a Biblical basis for it, they simply just don’t want to believe it. This is why it is important to conform our minds to true religion, and not conform true religion to what we think is right and wrong.

            The same goes for me.

            God bless,
            Craig

          10. “I find that those who oppose this idea ultimately don’t have a Biblical basis for it, they simply just don’t want to believe it.”

            Actually, we have quite a bit of Biblical basis, but you disagree on the Interpretation (quotes from Douay-Rheims translation):

            James 1:13-17 “Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils, and he tempteth no man. But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured. Then when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death. Do not err, therefore my dearest bretheren. Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.”

            Ergo, temptation to sin doesn’t come from God, but only good gifts. Moral evil comes from within a man alone.

            2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord delayeth not his promise, as some imagine, but dealeth patiently for your sake, _not willing that any should perish_, but that all should come to repentance.” (emph. mine)

            Ergo, God does not will that people go to hell, nor plan for it, but rather makes opportunity for the opposite. Double predestination is false.

            1 John 4:8 “He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity.”
            AND
            1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, _thinketh no evil_;”

            Ergo, God does not think moral evil. If He does not think moral evil, he does not actively will moral evil.

            The Catholic position is that God wills moral evil after a permissive will, but NOT an active will. This distinction is critical to understanding the Catholic position. He allows people to commit moral evil, but doesn’t tell them to commit evils, nor does he ordain that they should do so. He does work their moral evil into His plan, and can at times prevent people from committing evil. Thus it is not right to say that we do not admit that God works all things according to His will. He does will natural evils (i.e. natural disasters and the like) from time to time for various reasons. These are not the same as moral evils.

            I am willing to admit if there is any contention due to terminology, but it seemed like there was an actual difference between your interpretation of reformed doctrine and our Catholic position on this point, and wanted to clarify what we teach.

            As always, any of my fellow Catholics, feel free to correct me if I am off on any of this.

          11. Yeah Craig I explained Augustine and demonstrated the absurdity if one substituted wills for permits in the other passages you quoted which is what one would have to do to use them. Alex explained well how scripture contradicts God willing evil. If one can’t grasp the distinctions involved then it quickly and unavailably turns to the removal of free will which contradicts all of reason. Your position becomes similar to the idea Islam has of God. I wish I could’ve helped more.

            God bless

          12. Trogos and Alex,

            I don’t think my position is being accurately presented here and if you want to disagree with me, I would ask you actually deal with what I wrote, not your interpretation of what I might possibly mean, or what you infer the implications may be.

            I am not saying God commits evil. I am saying that He wills that it exists. This is clearly what Augustine is saying, and it clearly makes sense with the Scripture that God works all things. I think this fundamental Christian truth is so basic, that it is hardly even worth debating.

            So, if I am wrong, please by all means show me where in what I actually said is wrong.

            If for whatever reason you were to actually doubt that God doesn’t actually will that evil exist, the Scripture is so replete with examples of it I would hope you would realize that the position is untenable.

            We have the fall, where God had foreknowledge of what Satan would do in the snake. He did not stop it. We have Job, who God ruined without cause through the agency of Satan. We have Pharaoh, who enslaved the Jews…but God hardened his heart as punishment. We have David who was moved to conduct the census by Satan, because the anger of the Lord burned against him. We have Micaiah the prophet telling Ahab that God sent a lying spirit into the mouths of false prophets so that Ahab would die in battle. We have Isaiah inform Hezekiah that God put a lying spirit in the ears of the King of Assyria as judgment against him.

            God Himself does not shy away from explicitly saying it:

            I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord that do all these things (Is 45:7).

            Shall not both evil and good proceed out of the mouth of the Highest? (Lam 3:38)?

            Far be it from God to be the author of evil, but He is most definitely the great “permitter” of evil. Far God considered it better to bring good out of evil, giving it the occasion to exist and regulating it just as He regulates the light and the darkness, than to not permit its existence.

            Because I am not a Catholic, you must pardon me for not having the theological vocabulary of one. So please, judge me according to the merits of what I have said and how I have shown it to be true from the Scriptures.

            God bless,
            Craig

          13. Right Craig. We don’t agree. I don’t think we can make it any clearer. You think God wants evil to exist. Which makes God evil. We say He wills an existence which allows evil to exist. Once again, if you can’t understand these distinctions you’re doomed to fallacy. You say God is the permitter of evil and I agree, but I ask you to replace permit with will, and you refuse to do it…btw Isaiah 45:7 is I create calamity or perhaps disaster. Once again that pertains to what Alex spoke of in natural disasters. You obviously don’t understand Old Testament story telling as proved by your Old Testament proof texts. We can agree to disagree, although I have have studied free will and Gods will and I am surprised how nonsensical your position comes out once discussed or we can continue. Craig I dare you to once replace the word permit with will…your move amigo. Or we can agree to agree that God permits evil. In which case my correction that God “nothing’s” evil actions stands.

          14. Craig,

            You said, “Clearly God wills that evil exists. Augustine wrote ‘God discerned it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit its existence at all.'”

            Those two sentences don’t follow one from the other. Augustine is right, but your statement is at least less clear. I don’t know what you mean when you say, “I do not believe God compels anyone to do evil–though clearly He wills men to commit evil, because He ordains it.”

            I think a distinction needs to be made between God’s antecedent and consequent will, or between God’s Sovereign and Permissive Will (in each case, this is a distinction in the objects willed, not the perfectly-simple will itself).

            God wills to create a world in which there is a possibility of sin, and in which sin exists, but that’s different than denying the existence of evil itself.

            Let’s take an analogous case: perhaps we could eliminate all murders by creating a police state. We don’t will to do that. So there is, in a similar way, a sense in which you can say that we will these murders, but it would be more accurate to say that we permit them for the sake of a greater good.

            For the sake of clarity, I think it would be better to say that God permits moral evil, and uses it for His greater glory. Or are you claiming more than this?

            I.X.,

            Joe

            P.S. It would help if you defined what it means for something to be “moral evil.” Because this seems to include, by definition, that the thing is against the will of God.

            P.P.S. What happened to your neck?

          15. Trogos,

            “You think God wants evil to exist.”

            Unequivocally, yes. Nothing contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will. Everything that has happened, will happen, and ever happen is something that God wills for He works ALL THINGS in accordance with HIS WILL. If God did not want evil to exist, He would in His foreknowledge never create Satan.

            I think you do not understand the difference between will the something will exist and making something exist. I am not saying God made evil to exist, or that He likes evil. I am saying God willed that evil would exist and continue to exist for a time, for a good reason because He absolutely hates all things evil.

            “Which makes God evil.”

            That is your own logical deduction, but I do not believe the logic holds and it would not wok with Augustinian thought or the Scripture.

            “We say He wills an existence which allows evil to exist.”

            He sure does. And He gives opportunity for evil to rear its ugly head to serve good purposes, such as the episode with Job.

            “…btw Isaiah 45:7 is I create calamity or perhaps disaster.”

            The word in the Hebrew is literally “evil.” It’s the same word Jerome sued when he translated the Vulgate. The context of Is 45 and Lam 3 is God bringing upon nations to conquer Israel in judgment not natural disasters. So when God is saying He “creates evil,” the context is that He brings about judgment upon people, and that judgment exposes people to evils.

            ” You obviously don’t understand Old Testament story…”

            Actually, both your own and Alex’s failure to even understand the context of the quotations I used shows it is the opposite. Where in these chapters is anyone complaining about the weather or Earthquakes?

            “I am surprised how nonsensical your position comes out…”

            I would have to respectfully disagree. You, in this conversation, misquoted Augustine, misunderstood the context of a specific Scripture, and really have not proved any case from the Scripture of even reason. It appears you are just pleading from your own view of what is right and wrong, and trying to conform God to it.

            God bless,
            Craig

            P.S. Joe, I’ll get to you, but again when it comes to theological terms I cannot speak that language. I am not studied in it. I would ask that you would judge the merits of what was actually said. I think the terms muddy the waters as nothing I wrote was confusing, or contradicted the Scripture or Augustine (who I cited.)

          16. Joe,

            Thank you so much for your concern about my neck, brother. My cat stole my pillow a few nights ago and I woke up with pain in my neck and upper back. Nothing chronic but I do get intermittent muscle pulls at a frequency higher than the average populaton, but nothing to worry about 🙂

            Concerning Augustine, who I think I am summing up properly as I have read him extensively on the issue of evil, I think that you may be misreading him yourself. Key word is “may.” I think you are reading into Augustine a certain view of Theodicy that he did not hold to (at least to my knowledge) and I don’t think Biblically holds up. Let me work with your own example.

            You take issue with my contention that “God clearly wills men to commit evil, because He ordains it.” So, to illustrate the difference between antecedent and consequent will you write:

            “[W]e could eliminate all murders by creating a police state. We don’t will to do that. So there is, in a similar way, a sense in which you can say that we will these murders, but it would be more accurate to say that we permit them for the sake of a greater good. For the sake of clarity, I think it would be better to say that God permits moral evil, and uses it for His greater glory.”

            Here is my response, as simply as I can put it.

            God does not create evil.

            God does permit evil.

            God clearly wills that men commit evil by His permission of it.

            God regulates man’s commission of evils by permitting it to only the extent it fulfills His ultimate purposes.

            Here is a biblical analogy of the above. God created Nebuchadnezzar in a very indirect sense (for He created all men). God knew the wickedness and ambition in his heart. God knew what he would do if he would grow powerful and lead an army. God also knew that the Israelites deserved punishment. God permitted Nebuchadnezzar to rise to power, and by blessing him with victories in the field, eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem. However, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were evil themselves. God rose up the Persians as judgment against them.

            Everything I wrote rings true in the above example. God did not create anything evil, as though He created man He did not compel Nebuchaznezzar to act evil. He enabled him to do so. Now, God was not vague as to why He enabled him to do so instead of striking him dead with a stroke or something. He rose up Nebuchadnezzar to fulfill His will, the judgement of Judah. God regulated Nebuchadnezzar’s evils to the extent that he did not destroy every last Jew from the Earth (which would abrogate God’s promise to Abraham and the coming of the Messiah) and eventually He humbled Nebuchadnezzar to repentance (Daniel 4). The cycle repeats with Cyrus.

            So, while God’s will is that men not murder one another, it was also God’s will that Nebuchadnezzar murder a bunch of people. I don’t think there is any avoiding these obvious truths. So, it is true to say that God does not approve of evil, but He is sovereign over it and regulates it:

            “It is, therefore, in the power of the wicked to sin; but that in sinning they should do this or that by that wickedness is not in their power, but in God’s, who divides the darkness and regulates it; so that hence even what they do contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will” (Augustine, Chapter 33, On the Predestination of the Saints).

            I am not sure how much more I want to get into this issue as it is detracting from the subject of the post. I’ll give everyone the last word if they want it, email me if you really want to keep going 🙂

            God bless,

            Craig

          17. Craig I was looking at two different translations regarding the Isaiah calamity/evil issue. I’ll take your word for it and your exegesis makes sense. I didn’t misquote Augustine. After going around and around we are back to again agreeing for the second time. This is why I wanted to clear up the semantics from the start. However when you contested my saying that God doesn’t directly will the evil idea in ISIS and subsequently will the action I had to take issue. (Now you don’t seem to hold that position). If I said your position was nonsensical that is because you’ve made two different arguments whether you realize it or not. I told you that your two terms you disclosed made sense but disagreed with the use of them and then we had to start again after you weren’t satisfied.

            Once again the talking past one another which I tried to avoid at the beginning. It’s almost as if you want to argue.

            In your response to Joe you say that you simply put it as “God permits evil”. Just as I said….and He “nothing’s” the direct evil action.

        2. “Far be it from God to be the author of evil, but He is most definitely the great “permitter” of evil.”

          That sounds like you agree with us here. This appears to be primarily a terminology difference.

          “I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord that do all these things (Is 45:7).

          Shall not both evil and good proceed out of the mouth of the Highest? (Lam 3:38)?”

          We contend that God here means natural evil, not moral evil. Particularly because “evil” is contrasted with “peace” and “good [word]”.

          This part does not seem to be a terminology difference, but rather a nuanced distinction as to exactly what role God has concerning evil. We disagree here. We explicitly deny that God creates moral evil, and don’t consider it a biblical teaching, according to the way we interpret the scriptures.

          Overall, remarkably close theology, but nonetheless distinct. It *is* a basic Christian doctrine that God permits evil. The teaching that God creates evil, however, is basic Calvinist Christian doctrine, and thus cannot be put under the blanket of Christian doctrine in general.

          1. Only predestinarians contend that God creates evil. Calvinists do not contend this, though their detractors says so. But, if we all agree that God obviously wills that natural evils exist (like storms), and storms kill people, then I don’t think we can answer the question with the good ol’ “man’s free will” response.

            The fact of the matter is that God could have made an existence in which evil would have no temporal existence. However, He knew it to be better not to do that. And, here we are 🙂

          2. Now you’ve clarified your position. You don’t contend that God creates or authors moral evil, but nevertheless wills (permissively) that they exist for His greater glory (i.e. allows them to exist and commits actions that will lead to their existence indirectly). In short, we agree.

            Nevertheless, the “man’s free will argument” is a good teleological argument for *why* God permissively wills evil exist, and makes a good analogue to the Romans 9 “why does God even create bad people in the first place” argument that Paul makes. We as Catholics agree that there is no compulsion for God to allow moral evils to exist, but that allowing them to exist temporarily results in a greater good.

  10. Joe, I could not help but think of the words of the absolution while I was reading this post. Thank you for posting the words of the mass at the end. I wanted to see how the words of your service compare to our service, and they are very similar to our wording. Another point of connection for our churches. Some other Protestants have claimed this same thing about Lutherans, which shows again how similar we are on this. One difference is that we (and Episcopalians) have confession and absolution at the start of every service, while some other Protestants might only have this once a month or if ever as common as communion. Grace and Peace to you!

    1. Hello Rev. Dark Hans.

      Question on Lutheran teaching: are the words of absolution considered a sacrament in Lutheran theology (thus bringing the number to 3), or are there only two according to your church’s understanding? Or, does it depend on who you talk to? From what I understand as an outsider, there are 2 sacraments and the words of absolution are something of a 3rd “unofficial” sacrament, but then other resources seem to indicate that there are simply 3 sacraments according to traditional Lutheran theology.

      1. Hello Alex,

        This is a good question. Luthe wrestled with the sacraments, which should no surprise given the world he lived in back then. Luther seriously contemplated keeping confession and marriage as sacraments, but they lacked his criteria. they had to be instituted by Christ. This was an issue because every culture had some form and ritual for marriage, and this could even be a problem for confession because every religion absolves sin in some way. The sacraments left (Eucharist and Baptism) also had the element merge with the word of God to be a means of grace. He still kept confession as a vital part of the mass and even kept private confession for pastoral care needs. Most Lutherans do not even know that private confession is an option for a troubled soul. It is rarely done, but private confession is such a powerful experience for all people involved (I can speak from experience).

  11. Craig,
    It may be that we are assuming the same definition for ‘will’. It makes a great difference if God actively chooses evil and maintains it, or if he ‘purposes’ or permits it by allowing evil to continue. If God actively chooses both evil and good to exist, then he necessarily wills them to exist in the same situation. As I interpret your statement, God actively wills the evil of an assailant and the good of the victim who dies from the assault. Which outcome did God will?
    Or did he simply permit both to exist and allowed the outcome?
    Exegetical analysis of Ephesians 1:11 does suggests that the meaning is not overtly clear, and that the phrases need no small grammatical skill to accurately Determine meaning and application.

  12. craig truglia says:

    February 26, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Ck, to clarify, none who are predestined can fall away. Many with false professions of faith do. This was the position that I quoted Augustine on

    Me- Hebrews 10:28-29New King James Version (NKJV)

    28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

    Craig – Do you think one who has saving faith be saved? I believe a true believer can.

    The verse above does say that one who is sanctified can lose that sanctification. One can’t be sanctified unless they are saved and have true faith. You can trick yourself, but you can’t trick God. It’s obvious that those that are saved in the end are predestined. It doesn’t meant that they can’t fall away along the way. Frankly we were made for heaven and God give’s us enough grace to make to heaven. This makes us predestined for heaven, provided we cooperate with His grace. It seems to me you don’t give that much importance on how much free will plays in our salvation.

    1. CK,

      In what sense are the people in Heb 10:29 were sanctified? The temple makes gold sanctified (Matt 23:17). Unbelieving spouses are sure sanctified by believing spouses (1 Cor 7:14), but are not saved because they are sanctified. According to 1 Thes 5:23, we await full sanctification, so this leaves open the possibility of incomplete sanctification which surely would be true of those who fall away.

      So, while I agree your point is compelling due to the use of the term “sanctified” used in Heb 10, but we do not have smoking gun evidence that those who fall away in Heb 10 were sanctified onto salvation, and then lost it. The “onto salvation” part is something you infer into the text and I do not.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. Craig said – In what sense are the people in Heb 10:29 were sanctified?

        Me – The author is talking to Christians who are saved. They have been saved, they have been sanctified. I’ve added additional verses for more context. The last verse reinforces who the author is talking to, which includes himself (what you would call those who will persevere). Also notice how he says they “WILL possess life” ie. will be saved (future sense) if the persevere. He’s giving a warning not to fall away, which is redundant if they can’t lose their salvation to begin with.

        “Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near. If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries. Anyone who rejects the law of Moses is put to death without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Do you not think that a much worse punishment is due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of grace? We know the one who said: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” and again: “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised. “For, after just a brief moment, he who is to come shall come; he shall not delay. But my just one shall live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.” We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.”
        Hebrews 10:23-39 NABRE

        Craig – The temple makes gold sanctified (Matt 23:17).

        Me – It’s holy because it’s set apart for God. Also let’s use some common sense. The context of Hebrew 10 is very different. I guess I can find a passage in the bible where Jesus saved an animal or food and use it as proof text that animals and food go to heaven.

        Craig – Unbelieving spouses are sure sanctified by believing spouses (1 Cor 7:14), but are not saved because they are sanctified.

        Me – Paul is talking about marriage between a believer and non-believer. They are holy because their children are holy.

        Craig – According to 1 Thes 5:23, we await full sanctification, so this leaves open the possibility of incomplete sanctification which surely would be true of those who fall away.

        Me – sanctification like salvation is a process..

        Craig – So, while I agree your point is compelling due to the use of the term “sanctified” used in Heb 10, but we do not have smoking gun evidence that those who fall away in Heb 10 were sanctified onto salvation, and then lost it. The “onto salvation” part is something you infer into the text and I do not.

        Me – The author is giving advice on what to do to persevere until the end and the consequences of falling away. As verse 39 show, he’s talking to what you would call the elect (he includes himself).

        God bless,
        Craig

        Me – God bless you also.

        1. CK, I would certainly tip my hat to you as I do think intellectually you have the more compelling exegesis of Heb 10. I would say when you read Heb 10:39, it reminds me a lot of Heb 6:9. It expresses a confidence that a particular group of people (in Heb 6 its the recipients, in Heb 10 he includes himself among them) will not have the things warned about in those chapters happen to them.

          So, I think we can infer, that the warnings do not directly refer to the people that the writer says that such things won’t happen to them. We can simply read this as him giving them a pep talk and helping them be more confident. However, we can also read it to mean that the warning applies to false brothers who, because of persecution, have left the church or rejoined Judaism.

          That’s why I try really hard not to hang my hat on a specific verse, but look at the chapter, the book, and then the corpus of the Scripture. I would say your grasp of the chapter appears stronger, but when you start looking at it in light of the book as a whole, let alone the entire Scriptures, I think the exegesis leaves something to be desired–especially when there are plausible alternative explanations that work given what we already know about what was said in that specific book.

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. Craig – So, I think we can infer, that the warnings do not directly refer to the people that the writer says that such things won’t happen to them. We can simply read this as him giving them a pep talk and helping them be more confident. However, we can also read it to mean that the warning applies to false brothers who, because of persecution, have left the church or rejoined Judaism.

            Me – I only have time for a brief follow up.

            Hebrews was addressed to Christians who were falling away not so much because of persecution but because of the demands inherent in following Christ.

            The book of Hebrews contains several warnings of how one can apostatize and ways to keep this from happening. If the “false brothers” can’t keep from apostatizing and the “true brothers” won’t apostatize then the letter to the Hebrews is meaningless since everything was happening is as it should be. The author is warning the “true brothers” the consequences of an impossibility.

            If I put Hebrews into one sentence using your paradigm I come up with this.

            The author of Hebrews tells the “true brothers” that Christ died for their sins, He’s faithful and compassionate, that they must continue in their faith and good works until the end, otherwise….the “false brothers” will apostatize.

            It just doesn’t flow.

  13. Craig said – Only predestinarians contend that God creates evil. Calvinists do not contend this, though their detractors says so. But, if we all agree that God obviously wills that natural evils exist (like storms), and storms kill people, then I don’t think we can answer the question with the good ol’ “man’s free will” response.

    Me – let’s try this. Give us another word you would interchange with God’s will. I think this would help clear what we mean by this. When I think of God’s will and moral evils, I think of God’s desire. It is unbiblical and that God desire evil. God can not be perfect love and desire evil. Desiring evil comes from imperfection.

    I’m sure you and others can expand on this and take it deeper than I possibly can.

    Thanks

  14. Craig – Unequivocally, yes. Nothing contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will. Everything that has happened, will happen, and ever happen is something that God wills for He works ALL THINGS in accordance with HIS WILL. If God did not want evil to exist, He would in His foreknowledge never create Satan.

    Me – I think the issue with all this possibly our view of man’s free will. God tolerates evil (permits it) for the sake of free will. Much like we tolerate possible harm to our children as we allow them to explore and make their own choices. We would never treat our normal healthy kids like the “Bubble Boy” to keep them from getting sick or hurt (though we could), because doing so would do more harm than good. I guess you would say that by allowing them to take risks “you will” that they get hurt whereas I would say I tolerate it or allow it for the sake of their independence and free will.

    Not a perfect analogy, but hopefully it gets us moving in the right direction.

  15. The word will can be a noun and a verb. God clearly has a “will” and can will things into existence and being. The word “wills” is synonymous with create, come into being, cause which is vastly different from the word permit which doesn’t necessarily mean create, come into being and/or cause. God doesn’t actively create evil and by default, if he creates a thing as good the counter to that action would be evil even though God didn’t create the counter action. God can allow or permit evil to come into being, but he doesn’t actively will it into being.

    Craig denies that God creates evil but by using the word “wills” he is effectively saying that God creates evil which he disagrees with. That is causing the confusion here in my opinion.

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