Some Thoughts on Catholic Tradition and Justification

The 27th Comrade left a four-part comment in response to my last post. He’s clearly given it a lot of thought, and it warrants a thoughtful reply, but if I try and tackle it line by line, this post would be insanely long. So let me hit on a few major themes today, and then address some of the specific points he raises tomorrow.

Major Points

A. “Apostolic Tradition” v. “traditions
If you look at how the term paradosis (tradition) is used in Scripture, a pattern emerges.  Paradosis of human origin, so-called “tradition of men,” is viewed as a potential obstacle to right relationship with God, while the paradosis handed on by the Apostles is binding and absolute.  Specific traditions of men are condemned in Matthew 15:1-9 and Colossians 2:8.  In contrast, 1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6 describe the paradosis from the Apostles as absolutely binding, and we’re told to “shun” any Christians who doesn’t keep it.  [I distinguish the two as “tradition” v. “Tradition”].

So how can we tell the difference?  Binding, perfect Tradition is from the Apostles (who received it, in turn, from God Himself), and then it’s handed on from there. The term paradosis, and this is important, means something handed over.  So Apostolic Tradition is, by definition, something passed on to you.  We see the Gospel, and specific teachings, described this way in Romans 10:14, 1 Cor. 11:2, 1 Cor. 11:23, 1 Cor. 15:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and 2 Peter 2:21. So if you “discover” some brand-new teaching, or stumble upon some new interpretation of Scripture nobody else knows, that’s not Apostolic Tradition.  It can’t be, because if you’re the only person who’s discovered it, it wasn’t something handed on (and therefore, isn’t tradition at all).  If you then hand it on, it becomes a small-t tradition of men (or more specifically, a tradition of yours).

For this reason, St. Jerome said, “to have reduced heresy to its origin is to have refuted it.”  If we can say that such-and-such a teaching can be traced back to a certain man, a man was never taught it by someone else or by Jesus Christ during His earthly life, we can know it isn’t part of the Apostolic Tradition we have been left by the Apostles.  Sola fide, the idea that salvation is by faith alone, is first taught by Martin Luther.  He wasn’t taught it in seminary or by his superiors, and when he proposed it as an article of faith, he was rebuffed.  Luther himself declared that when he started out, he was quite alone in teaching this.  Bingo: that’s not part of the paradosis, the Faith passed on. T27C says, “Antiquity does not determine truth; the Apostles were fighting heresy in their time,” and this is half right.  Something can be a very ancient teaching and be false: there were early heretics, as he notes.*  But on the other hand, something can’t be Apostolic Tradition and be new. So it can be old and wrong, but it can’t be new and right.  For the same reason, when T27C says he just knows that a specific position is right, but can’t prove it logically or from existing evidence, watch out.  Scripture never presents “just knowing” as a guide, and instructs us to do the opposite (1  Peter 3:15-16; see Acts 17:17 and 1 Cor. 13:11).

The early heretics, of course, did the same thing Luther did: they interpreted the Gospel in a way it had never been interpreted before.  St. Francis De Sales, in Catholic Controversies, quotes two Church Fathers on the point:

 S. Hilary says excellently (Lib. 2 de Trin. xviii.) “Heresy is in the understanding, not in the Scripture, and the fault is in the meaning, not in the words.” and S. Augustine (In Joan. Tr. xviii, i.): “Heresies arise simply from this, that good Scriptures are ill-understood, and what is ill-understood in them is also rashly and presumptuously given forth.”

To get back to the original point of controversy: Scripture is quite clear: paradosis of men is dangerous, while paradosis of the Apostles is binding. It never says “all Tradition is bad,” and in fact, requires Christians to be bound by some. The translators of the NIV, on the other hand, distrust all Tradition, and they translated the Bible to make it sound as if it agreed, even going to such lengths as translating the same word in contrary ways to make its give it a meaning the original text never had (this is the tradition v. teaching dispute from earlier).  T27C says of this, “But their Tradition does make that distinction. When you say they are wrong, you are saying that Scripture over-rules Tradition. But that is against your position.”  I’m saying Scripture overrules their manmade tradition.  That’s consistently been my position, and the position of Scripture.  We know their position is manmade because we know the men who started the tradition!  So his conclusion, “you cannot critique that translation to support Tradition, because you would have to argue against Tradition to do it” is also false.  I’ve never said, “All tradition is binding,” but that Apostolic Tradition is binding.

B. Faith doesn’t mean what you think it means
If you ask a Protestant what “faith” is, you’ll not infrequently hear: that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  This is true (it’s Hebrews 11:1), but it doesn’t mean what the people who quote it tend to think it means.  If you look at Hebrews 11, every example of faith pointed to are people acting by faith, and then not falling away from the faith: “All these people were still living by faith when they died” (Hebrews 11:13).  Faith is contrasted with disobedience in v. 31.  The point is that Hebrews 11 isn’t just believing, but acting on that belief.

St. Paul puts it clearly when he describes “faith working in love” (Galatians 5:6).  Faith works: you can’t have saving faith that doesn’t work.  To say, “You have works in your scheme, while we only have faith!” is the sort of nonsense that St. James derides in James 2:18-19, the sort of worthless faith he condemned in James 2:14.

But it’s even more than that. And we know it’s more than that, because we hear that “God is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Cor. 10:13, 2 Cor. 1:18; see also Deuteronomy 7:9, Deut. 32:4, 2 Samuel 22:26, Psalm 18:25, Romans 3:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Thes. 3:3, 2 Timothy 2:13, Hebrews 10:23, Hebrews 11:11, 1 Peter 4:19, 1 John 1:9, etc.).  What could it possibly mean to say that God is faithful, if faith is simply belief?  Rather, it means something closer to “trustworthiness.”  And the word here is the same word (pistos) which we’re commanded to be: in John 20:27, Jesus says to Thomas (as the KJV renders it), “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust [it] into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.”  So the opposite of faithlessness is what the KJV translates “belief,” this same word for “faithfulness.”

So the faithful will be saved.  And we break faith with God through intentionally disobeying Him.  The Israelites “broke faith” with God in Deuteronomy 32:51 by disobeying.  The same thing happens in Joshua 22:16, 1 Samuel 14:33.  And it still happens.  Deuteronomy 7:9 lays this out beautifully:

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

So our duty is to know, love and serve God, and to obey Him faithfully: it’s a Covenant.  Mere belief, without anything more, is worthless.  St. James says so in James 2:19 (reminding us that even the demons have belief, and it does them no good, since they rebel from the God they know), and again in James 2:26; St. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 13:2, calling the man with faith and not love “nothing.”

Catholics believe that we’re saved by faith alone, if you understand faith in the broad Covenantal way that the Bible describes it, as faithfulness (belief, love, obedience, and devotion) to God.  But if you understand faith in the narrow sense merely as “belief,” well, it’s worthless on its own.  Faith, in that narrow sense, isn’t even the greatest of the three theological virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13).

C. The Catholic Church’s teaching on justification may not be what you think.
T27C’s comments on what Catholics allegedly teach, about how we have to work for our salvation, sound nothing like what the Church actually teaches.  Here are a few snippets from the Catechism on point:

  • CCC 1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.
  • CCC 2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. […]
  • CCC 2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. […]
  • CCC 2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.
  • CCC 2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
  • CCC 2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.” The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts.”
  • CCC 2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

So the Catholic position is that our intial conversion and justification is due to God’s direct action.  Then, with the assistance of the Spirit (and only with the assistance of the Spirit), we can cooperate in the work of God.  But since our wills are free to sin, we may also refuse to cooperate.  If we cooperate, we’re rewarded for walking by faith; if we refuse, we’re punished for our sinfulness and faithlessness, for “breaking faith.”  Hebrews 3:7-14 says:

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”[Psalm 95:7-11]


See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

So once we’re in the state of initial justification, like the audience of Hebrews 3, once we hear the voice of God, we’re free to either accept or turn away, but what’s at stake in this decision is our etneral inheritance with Christ.  I don’t see how the passage could be clearer.  (Finally, CCC 2008, which comes closest to sounding like works-righteousness, is nothing more than what Paul says himself in 2 Timothy 4:6-18.  I contrasted this from the works-righteousness of the Pharisees in this post.)

Tomorrow: We’ll get into the nitty-gritty, responding to a few of the specific arguments T27C raises.

8 Comments

  1. Hello, Mr. Herschmeyer;
    I am glad for the good cheer that still persists in this debate on issues that are quite obviously taut with spiritual meaning and emotion. Once again, as usual, I have that problem with the size of comments in Blogger. I am hopeful that I have not yet worn your patience out, and that the manner in which the comment has been written—with teeth bared, as it were—does not communicate more sounds than truths.

    “So if you “discover” some brand-new teaching, or stumble upon some new interpretation of Scripture nobody else knows, that’s not Apostolic Tradition. … If you then hand it on, it becomes a small-t tradition of men (or more specifically, a tradition of yours).”
    But you know yourself that most declarations of the Roman Catholic Church are after the time of the apostles. Some Marian Dogmas—Immaculate Conception, and Assumption—for example. The Co-Redemptrix Dogma is not yet codified, therefore it has not yet been ascended to by any faithful Catholic. Yet if it were codified tomorrow, it would join Roman Catholic teachings. Your argument defeats these key points that are in fact how the Roman Catholic Church defines herself. The Theory of Development, for which Cardinal (now Saint?) Newman is celebrated is an exact opposition to this your assertion.
    This, indeed, is why Roman Catholic Tradition is the traditions of men, even though out of respect for it (due to its importance, size, and antiquity) I capitalise it when appropriate.

    “If we can say that such-and-such a teaching can be traced back to a certain man, a man was never taught it by someone else or by Jesus Christ during His earthly life, we can know it isn’t part of the Apostolic Tradition we have been left by the Apostles. Sola fide, the idea that salvation is by faith alone, is first taught by Martin Luther.”
    I am not a Lutheran (or Calvinist); you will excuse me for my abiding lack of religion, denomination, or even communion. (I am not even upright enough to be a Christian, so …)
    Yet I know about sola fide, and I learnt it from Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the World that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    Now, if you feel that this verse should have been qualified (“whosoever believeth and worketh also”), speak up now. Jesus taught me sola fide by His own Word; and if anybody should ever disagree with that, he is wrong. That is the Apostolic Tradition.

    Indeed, John 3 is a response to one who, like me, asked “Surely I cannot be born again as You say I should, Jesus! How can this be?” And in it, we find the most-effusive repetition of “believe” of any chapter in the Bible. Not a single mention of “and remember to work, also”. Indeed, he mentions works as insufficient among the people of the World, anticipating Paul (“by the works of Law shall no flesh be justified”), and re-stating Isaiah (Isaiah 1 is truly amazing).

    Martin Luther, when he was put to task to explain his allein, cited Ambrose and Augustine over six other Church Fathers who stated “faith alone” before him. Me, I would not have cited such; I would have stopped at St. Paul. For St. Paul, justification came by Law or by Grace through faith, and he said that the Law would not do (could, but would not), therefore leaving faith alone.

    This stuff is indeed quite obvious if you are not opposed to relying on God to justify the wicked. Because, as St. Paul said, if by faith, then not by works. You need the Apostolic Tradition, which is there to see in the Bible for those who do not have so much trust in their own capacity to attain to righteousness. “He has chosen the weak to shame the strong … that none may boast before Him.”

  2. “Luther himself declared that when he started out, he was quite alone in teaching this. Bingo: that’s not part of the paradosis, the Faith passed on.”
    On that, as on many other things, Luther was wrong. Luther was never alone in preaching sola fide, since the New Testament never vanished; the Word was always there. Luther, indeed, relied on Scripture as back-up; how can he say that he was alone, when Scripture was there all along?
    God, through His Holy Spirit, has sustained a remnant of believers in Truth at all times.

    “For the same reason, when T27C says he just knows that a specific position is right, but can’t prove it logically or from existing evidence, watch out. Scripture never presents “just knowing” as a guide, and instructs us to do the opposite (1 Peter 3:15-16; see Acts 17:17 and 1 Cor. 13:11).”
    Can you prove that truth exists, logically? It cannot be done, because circular reasoning is not logical. So it is with proving things about both Tradition and Scripture (and since, for me, the two are identical, I can just mention one, which is Scripture). My point is that Scripture is a First Principle; and those are never proven. How do you know that we should accede to the Tradition and Scripture that is right? How do you know that it is good to look for the truth? If you see anybody telling you to prove everything by reason—which is, indeed, the Roman Catholic way—you are looking at a barrier to faith. Scripture does present just knowing as a guide, in that it never for example tries to prove that it is the Word of God, or that it is truthful. This is the kind of thing I am talking about. So, when I see people who think they can defend sola scriptura by reason, I laugh. It is a matter of faith, because whatever over-rules your appeal to Scripture will itself have to be subjected to identical questions about its sola status. Have you ever noticed that nobody ever tries to justify, say, ex cathedra nulla salus?
    The verses you present above talk of reasoning, which I know Roman Catholics like a lot. But you think that reasoning must follow the Euclidean style with Aristotelian logic, as does St. Thomas Aquinas. When I reason to the terminus of reason, I have reasoned that reason should shut up. Further reasoning, absurd to reason, is still reasoning; and one of those is “just knowing”.

    “The early heretics, of course, did the same thing Luther did: they interpreted the Gospel in a way it had never been interpreted before.”
    Luther was old-hat. He had nothing new to say. No wonder that, realising this, he said “sola scriptura”. His words were boring stuff from 1500 years before him. But the Assumption, for example? Immaculate Conception? Purgatory? Indulgences? Of course, you may now confuse me by resorting to reading some scripture to support the Roman Catholic heresies, appealing in a strange way to Scriptura when you could just appeal to Tradition and getting it over with. But as the Church Fathers you quote said: “Heresy is in the understanding, not in the Scripture, and the fault is in the meaning, not in the words … good Scriptures are ill-understood, and what is ill-understood in them is also rashly and presumptuously given forth.”

    “I’m saying Scripture overrules their manmade tradition.”
    I am saying Scripture supports their Tradition.
    I am saying Scripture over-rules the Roman Catholic man-made traditions.

    Do you see, then, the problem with making traditions contest extra-scripturally? I hope you see it now; I believe it is obvious. No winner can be decided here, except by simple, blind, gut faith (which as your stated position, and one probably required by the dogmas, you cannot do—a very sad state).

  3. “If you look at Hebrews 11, every example of faith pointed to are people acting by faith, and then not falling away from the faith”
    Yes, indeed. I am yet to see any faith that does not lead to action. I am yet to see one who believes that X, but does not act as though X. Dead faith is … dead; I know only of living faith. When we say that “I am justified by the Grace of God through Faith in Christ,” when we live as though that is true, we are acting out our faith. There is no alternative. Would that we all remain in this faith until we die. It is a sad thing when people’s faith in “God who justifies the wicked” falters; stay in faith ‘til you die.

    “Faith works: you can’t have saving faith that doesn’t work.”
    As said above, yes. But you can having working works that do not save. The saving ingredient is faith, not works. After all, even the works of one done in unfaith are works resulting from faith: faith that what it is he would have believed in is not to be believed in. Self-righteous legalism is works due to faith in their capacity to save themselves. Ever seen Luke 18:9-14 and not seen a practicing Catholic in it? Confident in their own righteousness. The alternative is confidence in the righteousness imparted by God; like I said, Jesus initiated sola fide.

    “To say, “You have works in your scheme, while we only have faith!” is the sort of nonsense that St. James derides in James 2:18-19, the sort of worthless faith he condemned in James 2:14.”
    Whenever you find that your position receives its support from a passage in a chapter almost exclusively, you are probably reading it wrong, because that reading flies against the arc of the message. Does Romans illuminate your understanding of James?
    James means that works are there in faith—of course!—but whatever way they are related to your justification, they do not cause it. He cites “Abraham believed and he was justified.” He calls it the law of liberty. We can be obstinate in our in-born desire to be able to boast about how we saved ourselves by our efforts, but St. James, understood well, will not help out. “Can that faith save him?” Which is that faith? The one with no subsequent works. But that faith I am yet to see; for even the sheer confidence to stride to the Throne of Grace in our time of need is a work resulting from faith. The faith of those justified by faith is not the kind that does not save.

    “What could it possibly mean to say that God is faithful, if faith is simply belief? Rather, it means something closer to “trustworthiness.””
    Please, do not equivocate between the faith of God and the faith of man. God is faithful to stick by us, we should be faithful to rely on him. He should be trustworthy, but we should be reliant. Why reliant? Because if our justification came by being trustworthy to God, we would never be justified. You and I have not been trustworthy. But God has never failed: this is why Grace is the only hope. The humans fail, God does not. Grace through faith—pardon through reliance—is where the ones who fail to be trustworthy rely on He Who Does Not Fail.

    “… and be not faithless, but believing.”
    Ah, that Jesus and his unceasing sola fide references.

  4. “And we break faith with God through intentionally disobeying Him.”
    Yes, and what has he commanded? “Believe and you shall be saved.” “Whosoever believeth in Him.” You have worked your capacity into the equation, so that it is dependent on you as well. You are fighting the snakes yourselves, instead of looking up at Nehushtan. You have broken faith with God. Of course, I do not believe that I will convince you (or anyone) of the wrongness of anything but foolish faith in the “God who justifies the wicked,” but if I seem rather raw in my delivery, it is because I was told the same things earlier by one who I do not doubt is God. And He sounded that raw.

    “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
    You should shudder on the reading of that. You have not kept his commandments! You have broken all: and St. James will stand there to condemn you, because it is his epistle that you cite most. You broke one law, you broke all. Matthew 5:17-48 is how you will be judged. Do you survive? By citing the Law of Moses, calling it beautiful (where St. Paul called it “the ministry that brought death”, 2 Corinthians 3:7-9), you accept to be bound by it and be thereby judged. This is the difference between you—who, forgive me, I will call the Pharisee—and me—who, everybody forgive me, I will call the tax collector. You glory in the Law, because you think you do well by it. I do not, because I know that God is faithful, and will punish every sin last single sin with death. I then say “Have mercy; I have no other hope. Have Grace.” Apart from Grace wholly independent of what I do, I am finished. Nobody can please God, except by faith; even this faith. So I believe in my insufficiency, in His perfection, and Christ’s perfection and sufficiency, and beg for Grace, which He gives those who believe. And He does, and imparts a free gift—not-worked-for un-earned thing—of Grace: this is the Righteousness of God. I do not set aside the Righteousness of God, for if justification could be attained by keeping His commandments, Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2).
    But on the last day, St. Paul will be proved true: there is no righteous Catholic; no, not one. They are all rebellious to God (Romans 3).

    “So our duty is to know, love and serve God, and to obey Him faithfully: it’s a Covenant.”
    Yes. Do you do those things? Do you obey God?

    “Mere belief, without anything more, is worthless.”
    Yes. Indeed, I am yet to see such a thing as belief that nobody acts on. My actions in this comment thread are precisely because I believe.

    “t. James says so in James 2:19 (reminding us that even the demons have belief, and it does them no good, since they rebel from the God they know)”
    Do you not rebel against God? The only thing that you can do to not be rebelling against God is to believe. Repent and believe the gospel is what Jesus commanded. The demons believe that God is one; they do not believe in Jesus to their justification (I do not know that they have the option).

    “St. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 13:2, calling the man with faith and not love “nothing.””
    I have not seen this faith and not seen love with it. After all, to understand it is to look love straight in the face. “For God so loved the World that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish.” When you think that the Grace is not so complete as to require you to believe alone, you do not know that God so loved the World. Indeed, if we do not love, we are nothing. This is why the commandments compress to “Love God, love your neighbour”. When we fail to keep the commandments—to love—we are nothing; this is why we need Grace. You, sir, do fail to keep all the commandments, so you do fail to love, so you are nothing. If you will ever be deemed less than nothing before God, it is by Grace.

  5. “Faith, in that narrow sense, isn’t even the greatest of the three theological virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13).”
    Of course not. God is Love, so Love should prevail over all of them. The faith and hope is for us. Faith, of course, being certainty of things hoped for. Do not rush to inject the need for your works everywhere you see “great”. That is too Pharisee. Love is greatest, because God is Love. God so loved the World. Faith is behind, because that is what is for us.

    “T27C’s comments on what Catholics allegedly teach, about how we have to work for our salvation, sound nothing like what the Church actually teaches. Here are a few snippets from the Catechism on point …”
    The same Catechism teaches that there are sins that are not forgiveable, and not having faith is not one of them. Suicide, indeed, is one such. Now, of course, the Catechism does contradict itself, unlike the Bible. Insofar as there is such a thing as mortal sin, then it teaches that our salvation depends on our works. That is not the Apostolic Tradition.

    “Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit. … The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.”
    Which is in opposition to the fact that … there is none righteous; no, not one. Yes, God can do good things in us; but then “it is not I, but the Christ that lives in me.” Romans 7 is so much the opponent of this man-works-with-God idea, that I find it impossible to speak of both on one day.
    And where does that leave people like me—as the 27th Comrade, and as the tax collector—who have no merits whatsoever? That leaves us to “trusts God to justify the wicked.”

    “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
    I hope you do know that rest implies no works. This is the well-delivered point of Hebrews.
    I see you quote “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God … We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” And yet you posit it as a contestant against the position that what we should remain in is faith—believing. Hebrews is almost the most-dangerous epistle to the Roman Catholic Tradition, not least because the Roman Catholic Tradition came to resemble so much the motions of the Jews about which that epistle was written.

    “we’re free to either accept or turn away, but what’s at stake in this decision is our etneral inheritance with Christ. I don’t see how the passage could be clearer.”
    Neither do I. Yet still, I see that wherever you see “we should remain faithful until the end,” you read “we should remain working until the end,” which confuses me. Could it be any clearer? Does nobody read Hebrews 9 anymore? As the Fathers said, the problem is not in the text.

  6. I should clarify something.

    There is one mortal sin: not believing. All the rest do not lead to perishing, if one believes. If you disagree, tell me your understanding of John 3:16. Indeed, John 3 (whose last verse is very, very instructive—coming from John the Baptist).

    So, the Catechism lists other mortal sins. In that, it is no different from the Laws of Moses (which, contrary to popular opinion, only list mortal sins; St. James can help explain). However, the reason I am not a Judaiser is the same reason I am not a Roman Catholiciser: because I am of the Apostolic Tradition.

    I want to apologise for how long the comment I wrote got. I really do not comment much on the Internet, and it is hard for me to put limits on length in such fora; I am not a native here.

  7. T27C,

    I think, before getting into the specifics of what you’re alleging, we should address the bigger point. As Christians, we’re called to live in unity, including doctrinal unity: we’re to be of one mind, as well as one heart. So it’s important that there be some way that each of us (and all Christians) can determine who’s right and who’s wrong in these situations. It’s in that vein that I responded here. To reference an image you used in your comments on an earlier post, we need a judge we can both point to as the judge. In many contexts, we can just say, “What sayeth Scripture?” Not here.

    Saying, “Scripture is the judge” doesn’t work in this particular situation, both because (1) we don’t agree which Books are Scripture, (2) we don’t agree that Scripture is the ONLY thing [in fact, I think we both agree that you need something besides Scripture, even if it’s an a priori unfounded assumption that Scripture consists of 66 inspired books], and (3) we’re reading the same passages in opposite ways.

    Finally, I’m saddened by your spiritual arrogance, in thinking you’re better than Catholics because you’re humbler, and that we’re the ones like the Pharisees. The irony here isn’t lost on me, nor was it lost on the Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who said in his 1995 “Reformation Sunday” homily:

    “For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning [Luke 18:9-14]. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such readings possible. As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgment of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.”

    If you look to see which of the two men in Luke 19 is thanking God he’s not like the other one, it’s not the truly humble one. I urge you to avoid rashly judging Catholics based on what you think our views on justification are. I think there’s more to what we believe than what you think, and out of the spirit of Christian charity, you should strive to understand before condemning. In Christ,

    Joe.

  8. “As Christians, we’re called to live in unity, including doctrinal unity: we’re to be of one mind, as well as one heart.”
    I have trouble calling myself a Christian, because I barely share beliefs with many who wear that label. Still, those who hold the views on justification that are in line with Roman Catholic teaching are not followers of Christ, just as the Pharisees—worshipping as they did the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—were not Christians. Perhaps I am not one of the people you are called to be one with; perhaps you are not one of the people I am supposed to have communion with. Me, I believe. You, you work. As St. Paul said, “What do believers and unbelievers have in common? … Be separated from them.” With believers, I am supposed to be one; from those who work (Romans 4 terminology), I am supposed to be separate.

    The issues you talk about, I see, are mirrored in the larger post. I will read it better and respond there.

    “If you look to see which of the two men in Luke 19 is thanking God he’s not like the other one, it’s not the truly humble one.”
    Not humble in terms of telling the truth. He is humble in terms of justification, knowing that he does not have any standing, if his works are taken into account. The humbleness that is called-for in Luke 18 is what is shown in Luke 19, with a real-life tax-collector, Zacchæus. Humbleness in matters of justification. This is what is missing from the Catholic teaching. Meanwhile, nobody ever gets to the Grace where “God justifies the wicked”—as He did in Luke 18—unless first he over-comes the absence of humbleness that is built into our systems of Law, and in this case the Roman Catholic teaching.

    One of the many reasons why I am not a Protestant is because I have nothing to protest against among the Catholics. As far as I am concerned, they are just as wrong as those American Evangelicals who are legalistic in their preaching. Unless I am going to protest against, say, Sikhism and its rejection of what I feel are fundamental theological truths, I will not protest against Catholicism either. It is true, however, that all humans—minus those who accede to Grace by Faith—are Pharisees; Catholic and animist alike.

    Are you saying that it is wrong to take pride in the fact that we are the ones justified before God, while you are not? (Our being the tax-collector is only circumstantial.) “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” Tell me any Roman Catholic saint who was canonised because of how much he relied on “God who justifies the wicked” to be seen as righteous, rather than on works of the Law.
    It is wrong to turn our faces away from this, because such a Roman Catholic teaching rejects the only thing about Jesus Christ: faith justifying. You water it down, make it lukewarm, and it is no longer that of which He said “It is finished.“ Many would rather be thereby condemned than bear the shame of not being justified because of what they do. But I will boast that I am justified entirely by Grace, through Faith. If by works, then not by faith.

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