Faith Alone v. Forgiving Trespasses: How the Lord’s Prayer Contradicts the Reformation

Lines from the Lord’s Prayer, in various languages.
From the Eucharist Door at the Glory Facade of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain.

It’s Lent in Rome. That means it’s time for one of the great Roman traditions: station churches. Each morning, English-speaking pilgrims walk to a different church for Mass. This morning, on the way to St. Anastasia’s, I was once again struck by a line in the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That’s a hard thing to pray, It doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. Even the Catechism seems shocked by it:

This petition is astonishing. If it consisted only of the first phrase, “And forgive us our trespasses,” it might have been included, implicitly, in the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, since Christ’s sacrifice is “that sins may be forgiven.” But, according to the second phrase, our petition will not be heard unless we have first met a strict requirement. Our petition looks to the future, but our response must come first, for the two parts are joined by the single word “as.”

Upon arriving at Mass, I discovered that the Gospel for the day was Matthew 6:7-15, in which Christ introduces this prayer. That seemed too serendipitous to simply be a coincidence. Then Archbishop Di Noia, O.P., got up to preach the homily, and it was all about how to understand this particular petition. So here goes: I think that the Lord’s Prayer is flatly inconsistent with sola fide, the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. Here’s why.

In this line of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus seems to be explicitly conditioning our forgiveness on our forgiving. Indeed, it’s hard to read “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” any other way. What’s more, after introducing the prayer, Jesus focuses on this line, in particular. Here’s how He explains it (Matthew 6:14-15):

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

So to be forgiven, you must forgive. If you do, you’ll be forgiven. If you don’t, you won’t be. It’s as simple as that.

So Christ has now told us three times that our being forgiven is conditioned upon our forgiving, using the most explicit of language. How does Luther respond to this? “God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace.” And what is Calvin’s response? “The forgiveness, which we ask that God would give us, does not depend on the forgiveness which we grant to others.”

Their theology forces them to deny Christ’s plain words, since admitting them would concede that we need something more than faith alone: we also need to forgive our neighbors. They’ve painted themselves into a corner, theologically. To get out of it, they change this part of the Our Father into either a way that we can know that we’re saved (Luther’s approach: that God “set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer”) or a non-binding moral exhortation (Calvin’s: “to remind us of the feelings which we ought to cherish towards brethren, when we desire to be reconciled to God”).

Modern Protestants tend to do the same thing with these verses, and countless other passages in which Christ or the New Testament authors teach us about something besides faith that’s necessary for salvation. We see this particularly in regards to the Biblical teaching on the saving role of Baptism (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21) and works (Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6-8; James 2). There are three common tactics employed:

  1. Reverse the causality. If a passage says that you must do X in order to be saved, claim that it really means that if you’re saved, you’ll just naturally do X. Thus, X is important for showing that you’re saved, but it doesn’t actually do anything, and certainly isn’t necessary for salvation (even if the Bible says otherwise: Mark 16:16).
  2. No True Scotsman. If Scripture says that someone believed and then lost their salvation (like Simon the Magician in Acts 8, or the heretics mentioned in 2 Peter 2), say that they must not have ever actually believed (even if the Bible says the opposite: Acts 8:13, 2 Peter 2:1, 20-22).
  3. Spiritualize the passage into oblivion. If the Bible says that Baptism is necessary for salvation, argue that this is just a “spiritual” Baptism that means nothing more than believing. And if you need to get around the need to be “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5) spiritualize this, too, to get rid of the need for water. Reduce everything to a symbol, or a metaphor for faith.

In fairness to both the Reformers and to modern Protestants, they want to avoid any notion that we can earn God’s forgiveness or our salvation. This doesn’t justify denying or distorting Christ’s words, but it’s a holy impulse. And in fact, it was the theme of Abp. Di Noia’s homily this morning. Grace is a gift, and what’s more, grace is what enables us to forgive others. This point is key, because it explains why Christ isn’t teaching something like Pelagianism.

God freely pours out His graces upon us, which bring about both (a) our forgiveness, and (b) our ability to forgive others. But we can choose to accept that grace and act upon it, or to reject it. And that decision has eternal consequences. Such an understanding is harmonious with Christ’s actual words, while avoiding any idea that we possess the power to earn our salvation.

So both Catholics and Protestants reject Pelagianism, but there’s a critical difference. Catholics believe that grace enables us to do good works, whereas Protestants tend to believe that grace causes us to do good works. To see why it matters, consider the parable of the unmerciful servant, Matthew 18:21-35. In this parable, we see three things happen:

  1. A debtor is forgiven an enormous debt of ten thousand talents (Mt. 18:25-27). Solely through the grace of the Master (clearly representing God), this man is forgiven his debts (sins). He is in a state of grace.
  2. This debtor refuses to forgive his neighbor of a small debt of 100 denarii (Mt. 18:28-30). The fact that he’s been forgiven should enable the debtor to be forgiving: in being forgiven, he’s received the equivalent of 60,000,000 denarii, and he’s certainly seen a moral model to follow. But he turns away from the model laid out by the Master, and refuses to forgive his neighbor.
  3. This debtor is unforgiven by his Master (Mt. 18:32-35). The kicker comes at the very end: “And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Now, consider all of the Protestant work-arounds discussed above. To deny that this debtor was ever really forgiven would be an insult to the Master and in contradiction to the text. To say that, if we’re forgiven, we’ll just naturally forgive is equally a contradiction: this debtor is forgiven, and doesn’t. To treat the need to forgive the other debtor as a non-binding moral exhortation would have been a fatal error. 
This parable gets to the heart of the issue. The Master’s forgiveness is freely given, and cannot be earned. But that doesn’t mean it’s given unconditionally or irrevocably. Quite the contrary: Christ shows us in this parable that it can be repealed, and tells us why: if we refuse to forgive, we will not be forgiven. It turns out, the Lord’s Prayer actually means what it says.

40 Comments

  1. Thanks for the Links to Luther and Calvin.

    Luther’s response is very difficult to understand as he includes various contradicting statements regarding the necessity of forgiving. It’s hard to decipher exactly what he is trying to claim in these statements from a single paragraph from the link above:

    1. “He has promised that we shall be sure that everything is forgiven and pardoned, yet in the manner that we also forgive our neighbor.” (necessary conditions attached)

    2. For just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace (apparently no necessary conditions),

    3. so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, etc. ( “..we, too, must ever” connotes a necessary and continual condition attached)

    4. If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you; (condition attached)

    5. but if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving, for God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches ( “but if you forgive” is conditional….and then “freely and without condition” is unconditional),

    6. but in order that He may set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer, Luke 6:37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. ( “promise” points to the reward for forgiving, or fulfilling the condition mandated by Christ)

    7. Therefore Christ also repeats it soon after the Lord’s Prayer, and says, Matt. 6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, etc. (stressing a necessary condition for forgiveness again.)

    What is it then, conditional or unconditional forgiveness?

  2. “Grace is a gift, and what’s more, grace is what enables us to forgive others.” This is the most Lutheran thing you have ever said, which is ironic because you use this in an article trying to argue against Luther. I am so proud of you for being so Lutheran with this statement!

    1. I’m sorry to disagree with you there, but the statement is not something exclusively Lutheran. As Joe pointed out the distinction is not about how grace is acquired or how we are able to forgive but rather “Catholics believe that grace enables us to do good works, whereas Protestants tend to believe that grace causes us to do good works.”

      To put it another way, Protestants tend to think that it’s grace that compels a person to do good works whereas a Catholic believes that one must cooperate with grace.

      It’s a common straw man that Protestants believe that Catholics think they can merit grace or can forgive (or love) without it.

  3. With the Protestant doctrine of ‘sola fide’ there doesn’t appear to be consideration of varying grades, or levels, of justification necessary for salvation. It sort of reminds me of the “Big Bang” theory, so that once FAITH so-to-say ‘bangs’, there’s no going back, salvation is a ‘done deal’. But in all of this, it seems that a consideration of a gradation, or even a hierarchy, of faith and virtue are not considered. We know that Jesus put a condition on our Salvation, discussed in this blog post, which requires our forgiveness of other’s sins against us. But, in the Gospels, Jesus also puts other conditions to ‘salvation’ and ‘justification’ which include gradations, or levels, of virtue necessary for salvation, below of which a person will “not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven”. Here are a few such Scriptures, among others:

    “For I tell you, that unless your justice abound MORE THAN that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt. 5:20)

    “He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the LEAST in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called GREAT in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19)

    “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he THAT DOTH the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21)

    “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt.18:1)

    These quotes seem to verify the Catholic teachings regarding varying degrees of ‘merit’ and ‘virtues’ that are necessary as essential conditions for our salvation, as opposed to the ‘Big Bang’ type ‘sola fide’ doctrines of ‘once saved always saved’ taught by Luther and Calvin.

  4. The comments about gradations and cooperation in Grace freely given, I would add St. John’s description at Revelation 3:4 et seq of the message of Christ to the confessed believers in the church at Laodicea: “3:14 And to the angel of the church of Laodicea write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the beginning of the creation of God:
    3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot.
    3:16 But because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.”‘ So if faith alone is sufficient, and this message was given to the “church’, then not only is cooperation required, but cooperation of a particular quality and character.

    1. The Gospels are filled with other similar Scriptures, and especially:

      The Parable of the Wheat (Matt. 13:19-23) :

      “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, there cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart: this is he that received the seed by the way side. [20] And he that received the seed upon stony ground, is he that heareth the word, and immediately receiveth it with joy.

      [21] Yet hath he not root in himself, but is only for a time: and when there ariseth tribulation and persecution because of the word, he is presently scandalized. [22] And he that received the seed among thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless. [23] But he that received the seed upon good ground, is he that heareth the word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth the one an hundredfold, and another sixty, and another thirty.”

      And others:

      The parable of the ‘wise and foolish virgins’ (Matt. 25:1)

      The parable of the Feast: wherein one of the guests is not dressed in the acceptable garments. (Matt. 22:11)

      The parable of the ‘buried talent’. (Matt. 15:14)

  5. As a Protestant, here is my honest, uncomplicated answer to this:

    Indeed we ought to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. In fact, if we do not forgive, then we should be afraid to even pray to God presuming that He will care to listen to our prayers, because of the verse in question because of this blog post.

    But let’s broaden the context a little bit. Christ speaks of one who when presenting a sacrifice remembers that his brother has something against him. Let me repeat, it wasn’t even he had something against that brother, instead, that brother had something against him. The sacrifice cannot be presented until one can be reconciled to that brother. Hence, your sacrifice is contingent upon the forgiveness of that other person, even though there is no guarantee that he even wants to reconcile with you.

    So, I speak honestly and perhaps completely out of my own weakness (which should shame me being that I claim to know the Gospel and share it with others), that I view these as impossible standards.

    Believe me, these are standards I try to fulfill. I pray to fulfill them. I had a business that caused a rift between my father and I for example. I have done everything he asked, apologized, tried to take him out to dinner and drinks, and did not respond in kind over worse things which I will not post publicly under my full name, and if I am honest with myself I can see two things: First, he is no reconciled to me, despite my efforts. Second, even though I exert myself, my flesh does not really want reconciliation (because, after all, I was not the only one who committed wrong in order for there to be a rift.)

    So here I am, warring against myself. My outward actions would be a visibly a victory over the flesh, but I know my own mind, I know I would not ant to be forgiven by God (with reservations) as even still I have forgiven my eartly father,

    So, I bring up this whole example to my own shame, that perhaps it could be instructive. Every one has a different situation, but I do not think anyone can completely fulfill the requirements of God. God demands perfection )(Matt 5:48), and rightly so because He is perfect. The Lord’s Prayer just backs it up. We should only be forgiven to the extent we forgive.

    Can anyone here say that in their heart of hearts, they not only have forgiven every person who has wronged them completely, but they even went out and try to reconcile with people who hate them and wrong them? And, even if they went as far as doing the latter, when they fail, to try and do it again?

    Wretched men that we are! Who will set us free from this body of death of ours? Thanks me to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

    If faith alone does not save, we cannot be saved. We are too sinful. As simple as that.

    1. Craig,

      Regarding your father, multitudes of people have had sad experiences like this in their lives. My own father never really understood my faith, even until his recent death. The father of St. Francis of Assisi kept him in a jail cell in their house for 3 months, until his mother let him escape. Then the father disowned him before the Bishop of Assisi, and many of it’s citizens. St. Thomas Aquinas was also persecuted “such that he had to flee his family. However, family members captured him and locked him up in a family castle.”

      You have done your best in good faith, even as these others.

      However, the truths of Catholic Church doctrine, and also Protestant teachings such as ‘sola fide’, are usually studied and analyzed on more of a macro level, since Church teachings revolve around the entire body of Christ, not just the personal experiences of individuals. The truths of Church doctrine should be found in the history and teachings of the Apostles, and then with the “Apostolic Fathers” (i.e.. Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp and Clement, etc.).., and after these, with their successor bishops, apologists and theologians of the early centuries.

      This is why the Council of Nicaea defines the Church as “Apostolic” in the Nicaean Creed. It was not based on individual beliefs or doctrines, but on the teachings and traditions of the Apostles of Christ. A study of the writings of St. Irenaeus, and especially his ‘Apology’ (175AD), gives a good breakdown of the ‘apostolic faith’ handed down by the apostles and their successors until his time. It is easily found on-line in it’s entirety, and is indispensable for understanding well the pre-Nicaean ‘Catholic’ Church, in contrast to the multitudes of heretical beliefs and practices of that time.

    2. Thanks for the reply. I would imagine you have this passage in mind:

      It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about (Against Heresies 3:3:1).

      From the context, we can see that Irenaeus is clearly not talking about profound apostolic powers inherited by those bishops in the Apostolic churches. Rather, he is saying that the churches which were apostolic all had the same doctrines and traditions, while all the zany heresies he is writing against have not coincidentally originated outside the established churches.

      Hence, his contention makes perfect sense. If all the churches which literally received letters from Paul and such (Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc) all taught X and had Y doctrines from A and B Scriptures, but the heretics from totally different places taught R and S doctrines from C and D Scriptures, wouldn’t it make sense that X and Y, A and B were legit from the Apostles and not R and S, C and D?

      I confess one holy, apostolic, catholic church. I have no issue discussing tradition (though I am no expert.) However, I don’t want to muddy the waters getting more into the issue here, so allow me to reiterate the point that the grace of God in Jesus Christ seems to me the only think that can save us or bring any of our good works to completion in which they would actually be good. Hence, I see that faith encompasses everything and if it doesn’t, then we are under God’s wrath and rightly so.

    3. Craig,

      The Catholic Church already teaches that every good work has as it’s origination the grace of God. Everything we have, and do, comes to us as a gift from God. And without the Lord, ‘we can do nothing’, as Jesus said Himself. In the previous post on this site, the JOINT DECLARATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church was linked to. It is a pretty exhaustive explication of the Catholic and Lutheran Protestant positions on justification. You can also Google this above title and get the same document. I think most Protestants should be able to find some equal understanding with this joint declaration.

      When I highlighted St. Irenaeus, it was to emphasize that there have been many Christians that have strayed from the faith throughout Christian history, and Irenaeus gives particular names and places of these people and doctrines, both for our example, and as a warning to us to beware of such ‘heretics’. He shows where they went wrong, and how they differed from the apostolic “Catholic” Church, led by the Church at Rome, of his day.

      In modern Protestantism we see something similar to the times that Irenaeus lived. There are estimated to be 40,000+ Christian denominations today, besides the Catholic Church. Many of these have very distinct doctrines, sacraments, bibles, customs, etc…from the others. When reading Irenaeus, they seem pretty similar in their diversification of beliefs.

      However, Irenaeus continues to stress the ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC Church, with the Rome Church at it’s head, as the only true ‘bride of Christ’, which extended it’s reach throughout the world of his time.

      And I believe it’s still the same Church today, even as the Lord said:

      ” …teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matt. 28:28)

      Best to you in the Lord.

    4. Dear Craig,

      I’m a friend of Joe Heschmeyer; he invited me to read your comment, since he knows the subject of justification and the Gospel call to perfection are close to my heart.

      Allow me to make a comment or two on your reading of Matthew 5:23. It seems to me that it might it be the case that our Lord’s words, “If your brother has something against you,” apply to those for whom the brother has something real against you. If one’s brother could hold something untrue or contrived against us, then, well, as you say, our ability to offer sacrifice to the Lord would be “contingent upon the forgiveness of that other person.” And to me that seems very odd, and something a just God wouldn’t require. Or could God justly require that? Also, I wonder how one could read Matthew 10:34ff together with this sacrifice passage. In Matthew 10:34ff, it seems as though Jesus himself perpetrates division between family members, in which case it would hardly be consistent for Jesus himself to cause divisions among us and then blame us for them.

      Be that as it may (and if you disagree with the above, then let’s let it go), I agree with your main point: The perfect God requires us to be perfect; we humans typically are not capable of perfection. In fact, among those who are following Christ, we experience a war within ourselves: not all is well.

      But your conclusion surprises me. “If faith alone does not save, we cannot be saved. We are too sinful. As simple as that.” I’m surprised because it seems like you throw out God’s requirement of perfection. You say: God requires perfection. We are not perfect. So we have faith. My question is: well, what did faith do? Did it solve the problem? Did it make us perfect? Did it plant perfection within us, or not? Does God require perfection, but let that requirement off for those with faith?

      Thanks for your time.

      All the best and God Bless,
      Matthew

      PS. You may be interested in a post of mine that, in all likelihood, will appear on Shameless Popery very soon. Look for “The Heart of Justification.”

  6. Citation on the primacy of the Church of Rome from “Against Heresies by St. Irenaeus, Book 3,Ch.3.2:

    “….[we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church…”

    1. If you read the previous verse, Irenaeus offers a rationale (it has to do with the preservation of doctrine.) Further, you are not going to get a debate from me about the centrality of the Roman church very early on. However, this does not substantiate that the said church can then devise doctrines that are demonstrably not Apostolic (again, wrong thread), because this goes against Irenaeus’ whole rationale behind Apostolic Succession.

    2. “..this does not substantiate that the said church can then devise doctrines that are demonstrably not Apostolic “

      Apostolic succession is a living institution of the Church. It was before Irenaeus, after Irenaeus, and still continues to this very day. This in itself is a miracle of the Christian faith supporting the Catholic Church and faith. What other kingdom, or Church, has ever had even a fraction of the permanence and longevity found in the long line of succession of ordained Catholic bishops…reaching, person to person, even to the Apostles and Jesus Himself? And according to the promise of Christ, it will continue in like manner until the end of the world. “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18)

    3. “Apostolic succession is a living institution of the Church. It was before Irenaeus, after Irenaeus, and still continues to this very day.”

      Says who? And when? Irenaeus is not making that contention. In fact, he said, “And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about.”

      He’s talking about the passing down of a consistent tradition so that when heretics come up with new stuff that no one heard before, it was evident that it was not apostolic.

      Yet, a “living” institution of Apostolic SUccession is different, because the modern “Apostles” (i.e. Bishops) can then change traditions and make new ones. This completely eviscerates the concept that Irenaeus was expounding, as he was talking about historic consistency, not the inheritance of powers that allowed those with them to now contradict tradition and devise new ones.

      “This in itself is a miracle of the Christian faith supporting the Catholic Church and faith.”

      Perhaps, but I don’t think the early church ever believed in such a miracle, that’s a later innovation.

      “What other kingdom, or Church, has ever had even a fraction of the permanence and longevity found in the long line of succession of ordained Catholic bishops…reaching, person to person, even to the Apostles and Jesus Himself?”

      In my humble opinion, it cannot be a church that actively contradicts what the Apostles and their immediate successors actually wrote. But, there are several churches that make the claim: Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Roman Catholicism.

      “And according to the promise of Christ, it will continue in like manner until the end of the world. ‘The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.'” (Matt. 16:18)

      Of course, if Christ was speaking of a specific institution, then that would be the case. If He is talking about His body, which covers several institutions that preach His name, then that interpretation fails.

      I keep trying to avoid a discussion on Apostolic Succession, because it is off topic. I just ask that you read Book III, Chapter IV of Against Heresies. The “barbarians” that had “having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition,” who was their bishop? What were their Scriptures? How were they Roman Catholic or anything else?

      Yet they were brothers in Christ, because they passed down accurately what the first missionaries have told them about the Christian faith.

      Please read Ireneaus in this section (not the whole thing, I’m not trying to be pithy), and then get back to me. These are serious questions.

    4. St. Irenaeus says it very clearly himself in the same passage that you asked me to examine:

      “The truth is to be found nowhere else but in the Catholic Church, the sole depository of apostolic doctrine. Heresies are of recent formation, and cannot trace their origin up to the apostles.

      1. Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. Revelation 22:17 For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?

      2. To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition…”

      Please note the reference to ‘Tradition’, above. And also to the Churches communicating and working with each other. In difficult areas of doctrine or discipline the Church has always come together to address the difficult issues, though sometimes it took a good deal of time to do this. The Council of Jerusalem was an example of this, among other synods that followed.

      The First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea was a milestone of sorts because of the great number of bishops that attended from all parts of the world. By reading the ‘canons’ of this Council, and not only the ‘Creed’, we can come to a good understanding of the nature of the Church as it was at that time (325 AD). We mostly note from these very important ‘canons’ that the Church was HIGHLY ORGANIZED. It was nothing like what we see in modern Protestantism. However, it is very much like we see in modern Catholicism.

      Irenaeus’s writings, amongst other Fathers’, and the 1st Ecumenical Council are just 2 pieces of the puzzle revealing how the early Church was operating and organized in those early centuries.

    5. I might add that almost assuredly some of those ‘barbarians’ were present at the Council of Nicaea, as it has always been the ‘Tradition’ of the Catholic Church to appoint Bishops to govern the new Churches in the most outback and isolated areas of the world. The Canons of Nicaea discuss this very thing. And this is also why we have large populations of very organized Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches that you referred to above, and in which a Roman Catholic is still permitted by Rometo receive the Eucharist in cases of necessity. Their ordinations are still valid after 18+ centuries, and their consecration of the Eucharist, and ours, is the same. This is a visible proof and consequence of ‘Apostolic Succession’ as it still exists today.

    6. I lost my whole reply. Let me reiterate two points:

      First, Irenaeus makes exceedingly clear that Apostolic Succession is the preservation of original Apostolic teachings. This being the case, to assert that modern-day inheritors of the office of Apostle (i.e. the Bishop) can teach new traditions would be an inaccurate understanding of Apostolic Succession in the original sense of the term. Therefore, Apostolic Succession is the preservation of original Apostolic teachings so that any tradition handed down by the succession is demonstrably the same as that of the early church, and not in fact different. Can we agree on this?

      Second, I think you did not adequately address the issue of the barbarians. Who was their Bishop if they had no written documents or even connection with the Catholic Church at large? If this be the case, how would they be Catholic in the sense the modern Roman Catholic Church understands the term “Catholic?”

      Book III, Chapter 4, Paragraph 2 of Against Heresies appears to me a plain case that orthodox belief makes one Catholic and part of the universal body of Christ, not a literal connection to the institution of the visible church.

    7. One the first point, Apostolic Succession is not only about teachings, it is about ‘Traditions’ also. This includes how to celebrate the Eucharist, customs such as might be found in the Didache, items relating to times for celebrating the Paschal Fast, the baptism of Christians, the ordination of priests, deacons and bishops, the praying of the psalms, etc… These are all things that the early Church was involved with, even as the Church is involved with today.

      When, Irenaeus uses the phrase …”barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition…”, we cannot think that the practice of the Christian faith ends there. This is the norm for all Christians to have ‘salvation written in their hearts’. He is mearly saying that ‘pen and ink’ are not essential. The written word of God was not essential. What was essential was the ORAL WORD of GOD to these people who yet did not yet possess an alphabet, or a means of knowing how to read. Oral Tradition taught them.

      But, you can be sure that a Bishop was appointed for that territory very quickly, because Ignatius of Antioch (c. 107) states:

      “Chapter VIII.-Let Nothing Be Done Without the Bishop.

      “See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.” (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Ch. 8)

      So, really, all of the writings of the Fathers work together. We can make assumptions from everything we read. Your last point is contradicted by Ignatius Himself. Jesus founded a visible Church, not some hidden Church. It’s a ‘light shining on a hill that cannot be hidden’. This is why all of these great Fathers, or almost all of them, were martyred for their highly visible faith.

      Last point. The Church has always been about something more than just faith, it has been about carrying out everything that Jesus commanded us to do….with that faith. This means doing what Jesus told us to do…baptizing, celebrating the Eucharist, Preaching…etc.. This is all done with ,and through, the VISIBLE Church. It’s all done with the means of real, physical, some holy and some not so holy servants of God. You cannot limit the Church to a cerebral meditation or doctrine. It is not a philosophy.

      By reading Church History (including Sacred Scripture) with a humble heart, most people and hopefully you, I think, can figure it out.
      Take a good look at this Letter by Ignatius. It can teach a lot.

      Best to you.

    8. A tradition is a teaching whose origin is historically Apostolic. Anyone can claim something is tradition. Irenaeus’ point was that Apostolic Succession demonstrated historically the origin of the traditions he espoused. Hence, true Apostolic Tradition CANNOT contradict the Scripture or the writings of the ECF. For a “tradition” to be legitimate it cannot suddenly appear hundreds of years after the beginning of the Church.

      “When, Irenaeus uses the phrase …”barbarians…having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink…”, we cannot think that the practice of the Christian faith ends there….He is merely saying that ‘pen and ink’…The written word of God was not essential.”

      No one claims that apart from literally seeing the Bible, you cannot be saved. Irenaeus clearly wrote in Book 3 Chapter 4 Paragraph 2 that these Barbarians were cut off from the world and did not have written word and presumably a Bishop that they knew. Why?

      “Thus, by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the portentous language of these [false] teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established.”

      These barbarians did not denounce the heresies because the Church told them. Rather, they remembered orally “that ancient tradition of the apostles.” The exclusionary language “neither Church nor [historic] doctrine has ever established” shows that the barbarians did not have access to either. Yet, they have maintained orthodox belief.

      “But, you can be sure that a Bishop was appointed for that territory very quickly [because Igantius wrote that let nothing be done without the Bishop]…”

      What Irenaues speaks of is not what Ignatius speaks of. Now, being that neither are Scripture, they can contradicting one another, and that does not pose us any problems. Or, it is more likely, Irenaeus was speaking of a peculiar group of people he supposed existed (not literal recipients of a letter like those addressed by Ignatius.)

      My presumption is that these Barbarians would be appointing Elders for themselves which in effect act as Bishops (i.e. Overseers,) though not in the Roman Catholic sense. Such an arrangement would indeed be Apostolic. Paul in Acts 20:17, 28 conflates Elders and Bishops as the same thing. This means, that there were no singular Bishops originally. Interestingly enough, St. Jerome concurs with this: http://books.google.com/books?id=qKYCAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA341&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3atGalQKpe8EJl2-Jv8GRfODe0Lw&ci=102%2C232%2C781%2C1156&edge=0

      So, nothing was done by the Barbarians “without the Bishop,” but the bishops were likely not Roman Catholic (or aware that they were “Catholic.”)

      “Your last point is contradicted by Ignatius Himself.”

      Not really, unless Ignatius contradicts Paul (in the God-breathed Scripture) and what Jerome reports. Also, Ignatius is not a “Himself,” only God should be addressed that way. I know that you know that, but I point this out because Ignatius did not write the words of God inerrantly, so it is possible for them to be in error. This is not possible for the Scripture.

      “Jesus founded a visible Church, not some hidden Church. It’s a ‘light shining on a hill that cannot be hidden’.”

      True, the barbarians were not invisible where they lived, though they were off the radar of the ancient Roman world.

      “You cannot limit the Church to a cerebral meditation or doctrine. It is not a philosophy.”

      Yet, the Barbarians Irenaues speaks of were cut off from the institution of the Roman church, yet they were one accord in Spirit. Until you can address what Irenaues actually said, you cannot even accurately understand what tradition really even says, let alone the Scripture.

  7. Regarding ‘barbarians’, we fortunately have 1800 years of hindsight on our side for this analysis. And the end results of early apostolic, and post apostolic, missionary activity is the conversion to Christianity of most of the known Western world at that time. And, when analyzing the first 7 ecumenical councils, starting with Nicaea, we can note that this converted western world was highly ‘Catholic’.

    A few sentences derived a treatise from St. Irenaeus is not sufficient to convey an adequate knowledge of the spread of early Christianity throughout the ‘anti-Nicaean’ world at that time. And even written histories of these events are not in any way complete. However, we can piece these early Church Father writings together, with the ‘Church History’ written by Eusebius, include a study of letters and books from ‘Fathers’ such as Sts. Basil and Augustine, and get a petty good idea of what took place back then.

    And then we also have the hind sight view of the conversion of other barbarians to consider, like the Anglo Saxons, Celtics, Vikings, and many other peoples and nations. These were also converted by the Catholic Church. St. Bede gives a good history of the conversion of the English people, and the “Confession of St. Patrick” some information on the conversion of Ireland. All of these were ‘barbarians’ before their conversion to Christ.

    So, I think a comprehensive study of Church history is necessary before drawing any broad conclusions from just one author, or another. But this is not to say St. Irenaeus is not a great father and Saint of the early Church. He is highly valuable for the many pieces of the puzzle that he provides for our greater understanding of both the history, and the doctrines, of Christianity.

    1. This website likes killing my replies.

      You need to interpret Ireneaus within the context he actually uses, not by forcing upon him historical events that happened hundreds of years later.

      Hence, if you invoke him to prove out Apostolic Succession, it is important to know what he both says and does not say about the issue.

      Irenaeus’ grammar excludes the possibility that these barbarians had a bishop. He speaks of the barbarians as a mutually exclusive party to the Church: “[B]y means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they [the barbarians] do not suffer their mind to conceive [of any Marcionite heresy]…among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever established.” The word “neither” shows that they are not considered part of the Church that Irenaues speaks of in some sense. Yet, they would be in agreement in their faith so that both the historical Church and these barbarians who have remembered what the Apostles taught would both deny the innovations of the heretics.

      So, your contention that every group of Christians with salvation written on their hearts have a singular Bishop recognized by the Catholic Church disagrees with what Irenaeus wrote.

      Further, it disagrees with Jerome (who said that a plurality of bishops, which were presbyters, was the original church government), and this accords with Acts 20 and Phil 1:1, where elders and bishops are conflated, and they are a plurality.

      Therefore, if the barbarians had a plurality of elders, they would be orthodox in their church government.

      I have read Eusebius, Ignatius, Augustine, and a little bit of Basil. I have read up on other guys. You need to point to actual evidence and things they said, as I have done, in order to actually prove a point. Otherwise, you are conceding it.

    2. To quote Jerome in full:

      Before parties sprung up in the Christian administration; before such expressions as these were uttered amongst the faithful, I belong to Paul, I to Apollo, I to Cephas; the churches were governed by a common council of their presbyters [elders]. But, when it came to pass, that each individual (presbyter) looked on those whom he had baptized, to be an acquisition for himself, not for Christ; every where it was decided, that one presbyter should be chosen, and placed over the others , and that to him the care of the church at large should appertain, thereby to remove every principle of schism. These instances I have brought, to show that presbyters and bishops were, for those of old, one of the same;but that by degrees, the government was restricted to one, in order to do away the possibility of dissentions in future. As therefore, presbyters should know, that, in virtue of the church usage, they are submitted to their prelate, whosoever he may be; so let bishops understand, that they themselves are greater than presbyters, more from a usage than from the primary ordinance from the Redeemer, and it is their duty to govern their churches by joint deliberation.

  8. Again, regarding barbarians and bishops, I was trying to recommend that Irenaeus’ short discussion of this should not be analyzed in a highly scrupulous and minute way, as he himself mentioned these barbarians in a general way. It is not good to be hyper-particular in this because the terminology ‘barbarian’ convey’s a very wide range of possible peoples and cultures of that time. It is not particular in any way.

    So, I was speaking generally, and recommending an analysis of other early missionary works of the Church, because we know that the Catholic Church converted the vast majority of these throughout Europe over about a period of about 1000 years. And I agree with you that there was not always a Catholic bishop present for such missionary ventures in early Christianity, but we also know from history that most of these barbarian tribes and peoples had bishops later, as is proven by the construction dates of the many cathedrals, basilica’s and monasteries in their particular countries. So, how particular missionaries brought the faith to these far off peoples is not really a ‘big deal’, it’s the result that matters, and how the faith actually changed their citizens and cultures for the better.

    As far as the Jerome quote goes, I agree with what he says…”let bishops understand, that they themselves are GREATER than presbyters, more from a usage than from the primary ordinance from the Redeemer, and it is their duty to govern their churches by joint deliberation.” This is what happened at the Council of Jerusalem. But it should be noted that Peter’s word in the ‘joint deliberation’ at Jerusalem prevailed in the end. Clement of Rome also helped to end a severe conflict amongst the Corinthians, from which he, as holding the office as Bishop of Rome, had authority to help settle the sorry affair in a very satisfactory way. St. Irenaeus also discusses this in Book III. But the entire letter written by Clement for this purpose, is also highly edifying, and is a good insight into how a leader in the Church should help guide those who hold offices below his own, whether they be fellow bishops, priests or deacons. The first Council of Nicaea also treats of these relations amongst the ordained clergy of the church.

    Best to you.

  9. “I was trying to recommend that Irenaeus’ short discussion of this should not be analyzed in a highly scrupulous and minute way, as he himself mentioned these barbarians in a general way.”

    But you are ignoring a general principle we can draw: we can exist apart from the institution of the Catholic Church due to historical circumstance, and still have salvation written on our hearts. It is a plain teaching.

    Further, Irenaeus clearly taught that Apostolic Succession pertains to Apostolic teachings in chapters 3 to 5 of Book 3. That’s the whole point of bringing up the barbarians. For more: http://christianreformedtheology.com/2015/03/03/tradition-disproves-catholic-and-orthodox-view-of-apostolic-succession-part-i/

    “As far as the Jerome quote goes, I agree with what he says…”let bishops understand, that they themselves are GREATER than presbyters, more from a usage than from the primary ordinance from the Redeemer, and it is their duty to govern their churches by joint deliberation.”

    You missed Jerome’s point. He is saying, due to the Redeemer’s intentions, that Bishops should not overrule local Priests because they are nothing more than local priests.

    “Clement of Rome also helped to end a severe conflict amongst the Corinthians, from which he, as holding the office as Bishop of Rome…”

    Read chapters 44, 47, and 57 of 1 Clement. There are several Bishops in each city. Further, just like Acts 20, he presumes that Presbyters and Bishops.

    God bless, Craig

    1. Now I can see why the Council of Nicaea was so necessary: To get all of the Church’s bishops, clergy, doctrines and customs all on ‘the same page’. We can read in these canons of Nicaea many items relating to bishops, priests, deacons, metropolitans, territories, ordinations, sacraments..etc… Things we have been going over for 2 days now. (…not to say it has’t been interesting)

      But this Council considers and defines many elements of early Christian life and worship that we have been discussing. I am a believer in the authority of this Council in both it’s Creed and ‘Canons’. And I’m a believer in all of the subsequent Ecumenical Council’s also. I think it’s great the the Church can come together on items relating to ecclesiology, so as to obviate the need for so much debate.

      But this does not take away anything for my love of the early Church Fathers that we have been discussing, i.e.. Irenaeus, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement, Jerome, etc.. Their writings are incredibly profound and inspirational. I view this Church history from hind sight and see it as a great victory for the Christian Church, which brought the holy faith to us up until this present day. I honor all of these holy hero’s, even as the Church today remembers, and honors, them at the daily Eucharistic Masses in all of the Catholic parish Churches (and Orthodox too) throughout the world.

      I only hope the Christians of our modern world might spread this same Catholic faith with the same zeal, love and efficacy as they did!

      May God give you His Peace and Continual Guidance! Maybe we’ll meet up on another one of these great threads.

      – Al

      Thanks be to God.

      I think I’ll need to turn my attention to a new topic, lest this one evolves into an encyclopedia…albeit a holy one 🙂

      May God give you peace and always guide you in His Holy Way!

    2. Editing error above. I revised the ending and the last part wasn’t deleted. But at least you get two blessings for the price of one!
      : )

  10. Being that this is not a thread on Apostolic Succession (I actually tried avoiding that), I hope at least that at least I have demonstrated there is a legitimate way to look at the same figures from tradition, the same Scripture, and take issue with the interpretations of Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. As for the councils, I don’t think you will get many Protestants taking issue with those 😉

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Dear Craig,

      I’m a friend of Joe Heschmeyer; he invited me to read your original comment, since he knows the subject of justification and the Gospel call to perfection are close to my heart. (I actually posted it above, but mistakenly buried it deep within other nestled comments.)

      Allow me then, if you will, to make a comment on your original post. First, a comment or two on your reading of Matthew 5:23. It seems to me that it might it be the case that our Lord’s words, “If your brother has something against you,” apply to those for whom the brother has something real against you. If one’s brother could hold something untrue or contrived against us, then, well, as you say, our ability to offer sacrifice to the Lord would be “contingent upon the forgiveness of that other person.” And to me that seems very odd, and something a just God wouldn’t require. Or could God justly require that? Also, I wonder how one could read Matthew 10:34ff together with this sacrifice passage. In Matthew 10:34ff, it seems as though Jesus himself perpetrates division between family members, in which case it would hardly be consistent for Jesus himself to cause divisions among us and then blame us for them.

      Be that as it may (and if you disagree with the above, then let’s leave it be), I agree with your main point: The perfect God requires us to be perfect; we humans typically are not capable of perfection. In fact, among those who are following Christ, we experience a war within ourselves: not all is well.

      But your conclusion surprises me. “If faith alone does not save, we cannot be saved. We are too sinful. As simple as that.” I’m surprised because it seems like you throw out God’s requirement of perfection. You say: God requires perfection. We are not perfect. So we have faith. My question is: well, what did faith do? Did it solve the problem? Did it make us perfect? Did it plant perfection within us, or not? Does God require perfection, but let that requirement off for those with faith?

      Thanks for your time.

      All the best and God Bless,
      Matthew

      PS. You may be interested in an article of mine that, in all likelihood, will appear on Shameless Popery very soon. Look for “The Heart of Justification.”

    2. I’ll stay tuned.

      Pertaining to “leave your sacrifice and reconcile with your brother,” without getting into any specifics, I will speak of my own heart. My heart does not always want to forgive. Sometimes I will do the right thing out of guilt. Other times out of duty. In my best moments, I conciously think about how I deserve damnation and God has forgiven me a far greater debt, I must forgive those with the lesser debt. Then I pray for them, I really do. But I would be lying, if at all times, my heart was totally in it. Even at my best (this is impossible to quantify of course), it misses the mark that God justly requires.

      “The perfect God requires us to be perfect; we humans typically are not capable of perfection. In fact, among those who are following Christ, we experience a war within ourselves: not all is well.”

      Correct, I am following you.

      “But your conclusion surprises me. “If faith alone does not save, we cannot be saved. We are too sinful. As simple as that.” I’m surprised because it seems like you throw out God’s requirement of perfection.”

      How so? God maintains His standard of perfection, it was fulfilled by His Son who acts as our substitute.

      “You say: God requires perfection. We are not perfect. So we have faith. My question is: well, what did faith do?”

      Faith makes us part of the Church (the body of Christ.) The Church is one flesh with Christ. Therefore, the Church is accounted by Christ’s works on judgement.

      “Did it solve the problem? Did it make us perfect?”

      It solved the problem, as there are no eternal consequences and that we will be resurrected as spiritual, physical bodies which will be perfect and untainted with sin.

      “Did it plant perfection within us, or not?”
      Not perfection in the sense where it is attained in this world, though it is strived for.

      “Does God require perfection, but let that requirement off for those with faith?”

      Being that I answered this in the above, I ask you, if God requires perfection what do you honestly and practically do to uphold that?

      God bless,
      Craig

    3. Fantastic! I like your response. Very clear. And I agree that it is a possible, even fairly convincing response. I think you’ll enjoy my eventual post. (Again, stay tuned. ; )

      You’re saying: God requires perfection, but we cannot be perfect (at least in this life) but Christ acts as our substitute, bringing us into his Church, canceling the eternal consequences and, at the resurrection, completing our perfection.

      The only difference between us is, I think, that I hold (for various reasons) that perfection “starts sooner.” Your experience of sinful desires here on earth leads you to say that perfection doesn’t arrive until we arrive in heaven. Very fair. We both hold that God, at one point or another, makes us perfect. In other words, you say that a man ceases to be simul iustus et peccator at the pearly gates, whereas I hold that it occurs before.

      Is this correct so far?
      ~Matthew

    4. I’ll agree with everything you said so far, though to elaborate I think being in Christ is a present reality, so in a sense believers enjoy a present perfection in the spirit, but not in their flesh, which is made perfect when they are resurrected.

      Perhaps I must wait for your post, but I do want to know for all practical purposes, what in your own or anyone you knows life would display the perfection that God justly expects.

      God bless,
      Craig

    5. Hi Craig,

      I like the elaboration. “I think being in Christ is a present reality, so in a sense believers enjoy a present perfection in the spirit.” Nicely put. Very Pauline. Very Catholic. (If you’ll allow me to be provocative. ; )

      A few points:
      1) This perfection in the spirit, this being in Christ, must count for something, even if it is not definitive. It is the start of the perfection that God requires. So we agree that in this life God at least begins a process of perfect-ification that he will bring to conclusion, at the latest, the instant before entrance through the pearly gates. To me, the fact that we are actually changed, actual put into Christ, lovingly thrust onto the path to perfection, is the essence of the good news.

      2) I was always taught that the imperfection of the flesh, if it remained at the level of desires, was not wrong or sinful, but something to be ironed out as virtue was acquired. So for example, the reluctance you experienced when attempting reconciliation with your father was (it seemed to me) an example of a victorious battle of the spirit against the flesh, precisely because the desires of the flesh did not determine your action, but rather you decided in favor of a faithful following of Christ.

      3) Examples of real perfection, that is, one who is in Christ and has uprooted the fleshly man . . . Well, how about Mother Teresa? Or JPII? Or Gianna Molla? Those willing to die for the good? The martyrs in the Middle East.

      4) One last point. It is precisely in this vein, that is, from the convergence of God’s ecstatic demand for perfection and the sluggishness of the fleshly man’s arriving at perfection that the teaching of purgatory finds its sense. If God doesn’t require real perfection, or if the fleshly man does not need to be purified, than purgatory doesn’t really make any sense. Purgatory could almost be described as the process by (or after) which the body is “resurrected as spiritual, physical bodies which will be perfect and untainted with sin.”

      All the best,
      God Bless,
      Matthew

  11. My understanding is that the present perfection we enjoy is of a spiritual nature, because we are already seated in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6). We are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13), and being that the Holy Spirit is perfect those with the Holy Spirit are likewise perfect.

    However, our actions and thoughts are not always governed by the Holy Spirit. The flesh in this life, I contend, by its nature can never be perfect. It was not in Paul, or in Saints of the Church, or anyone. All men are sowed in dishonor but are raised as perfect physical spiritual bodies (1 Cor 15:43-44), because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50).

    So, our perfection (strangely enough) is not yet made perfect in the life of our present fleshy bodies. That would be my understanding.

    “So we agree that in this life God at least begins a process of perfect-ification that he will bring to conclusion, at the latest, the instant before entrance through the pearly gates.”

    I am not sure about this, as our definitions appear to be different. However, being that before we enter the pearly gates we will be resurrected spiritual bodies, imputed no sin and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, in a sense what you contend is correct.

    “I was always taught that the imperfection of the flesh, if it remained at the level of desires, was not wrong or sinful…”

    Let me elaborate on this. Being tempted is no sin. Christ was tempted, yet did not sin. However, there is more to sin than just the act. So yes, by outwardly conforming to what is right, we do right, but we lack something when we do not inwardly conform.

    So, when I tell the truth, but I frame it in such a way so I do not get someone in trouble, I in effect lied. When I look away from a woman in whom I would find alluring, the fact that I found her alluring means (honestly) for a second or less I committed adultery with her in my heart. When I think of the person I am outwardly forgiving, and yet struggle against it due to fear, at which point does it border on hate? Isn’t hatred murder? And, if I stop short of hate, is it in essence attempted murder?

    I need not detail coveting, idolatry, and other sins we commit daily. Saint Clement has given me great encourage in his writings, as he has stated, ““For I myself, though a sinner every whir and not yet fleeing temptation but continuing in the midst of the tools of the devil, study to follow after righteousness, that I may make, be it only some, approach to it, fearing the judgment to come” (2 Clement, Chapter 18).

    That’s where I am. That’s where Paul is. I do not think there is anyone who is not there. Is there a Catholic that no longer needs to go to confession? This to me underscores the lack of perfection this side of death man should expect and strive against vigilantly at all times.

    Concerning purgatory, I cannot say, but I would be more than happy to elaborate any views on perfection (or lack thereof) in this life and the ramifications of it.

    God bless,
    Craig

  12. Gents, I was checking back on this blog to see if Matthew Rensch’s article, “The Heart of Justification” was ever posted?

    1. Hi Joe,

      Well, it’s been awhile, but all the official channels have given the go ahead. The most recent blog post on this blog is The Heart of Justification.

      Enjoy!
      Matthew

    2. Hi Joe,

      Better late than never, right? The most recent post on Heschmeyer’s blog is my article, The Heart of Justification.

      Enjoy!
      Matthew

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