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August 5, 2017 / vivator

Sacrifice of the Mass: Catholic invention or Reformers’ delusion?

I ju uploaded as page (always displayed in top bar) my post on the Sacrifice of the Mass: Catholic invention or Reformers’ delusion?.  Pdf file of the post can be accessed here, Comments and feedback are welcome!

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May 21, 2017 / vivator

Revised post on Justification

I revised and updated my post on Justification – contrasting Catholic and Protestant’s view based on the input from all my readers, especially from my opponents. Thank you all!

pdf file of the post, which appears better than the one on the blog is available at: https://vivacatholic.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/justification-e28093-contrasting-catholic-and-reformers_-position1.pdf

The post starts with more background on the issue of Justification and ends with an analogy for both Catholic and Reformer’s teaching on Justification.   Again your valuable feedback, correction, even critic are welcomed!

 

June 10, 2016 / vivator

A review on Sproul book: Are We Together, Part 2

Part 2: Justification

for pdf file of this post click here

Quoting from Luther who asserted that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or fall[1], Sproul stressed the importance of justification – the material cause of Reformation.  On the issue of justification, i.e. how a sinner finds salvation in Christ, there are a number of irreconcilable differences between the Reformers and the Catholic Church.

  1. The meaning of the (Greek) verb dikaioo (to justify)

According to Sproul, the early Latin fathers who used Latin instead of Greek (in which New Testament books were written), developed the doctrine of justification based on their understanding of the legal system of Roman Empire and this explains why to them to justify means “to make righteous”.  The English word “justification” comes from Latin “iustificare”, while in Greek it is “dikaiosis” – it is related to righteous (Greek dikaios) and righteousness (Greek dikaiosune).  The Reformers, on the other hand, based on original Greek meaning, understand the same verb to mean “to declare righteous”.

The Protestant Reformation, which followed the revival of the study of antiquities, focused attention on the Greek meaning of the concept of justification, which was the word dikaioo, which means “to declare righteous” rather than “to make righteous”. 

Sproul: Are We Together, page 30

While it is true that the Church in the west switched to Latin perhaps sometime in 3rd century AD, the Church in the East, which is now known as Eastern Orthodox Church, continued using Greek to this day. But they do not follow the same understanding of justification as taught by the Reformers[2].  Certainly the use of Latin, instead of Greek, is not the source of difference understanding of Greek verb “to justify”.

  1. According to the Reformers justification is by faith alone and occurs before sanctification. They separate sanctification from justification but these two must come together[3]. The Catholic Church, on the other hand teaches that justification is a process that starts from faith and includes sanctification[4].

What Paul wrote in Romans supports Catholic teaching: “And those whom he [God] predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30, RSV). In the above verse Paul did not even mention sanctification, but jumps directly to glorification, which is the state after dying.  Scripture says that through sanctification we are saved (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and sanctification is the work of God (1 Thessalonians 5:23). If Romans 8:30 supports Reformers teaching then the last part should say “those whom he justified he also sanctified; and those whom he sanctified he also glorified”. Catholic teaching on justification, perfectly explains why sanctified does not appear in Romans 8:30, i.e. it is included in the word “justified”.

In 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul wrote (RSV): And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul placed “justified” after, and not before, “sanctified”.

According to what Paul wrote in Romans Abraham was justified by faith but he was also justified by his obedience to God in James.  On page 45 – 46, Sproul wrote that it would be nice if those books use different Greek word and different patriarch.    Certainly it would be nice if James 2:21 says Abraham was sanctified when he offered his son, but it does not.  James 2:24 even plainly denies justification by faith alone.  What Sproul proposed to reconcile Romans and James is typical among Protestants, i.e. James talks about manifestation of our faith-alone justified state in the form of works of obedience before men.  But this does not explain why Romans and James use the same Greek word “to justify” – it is only an attempt to tie justification only with faith.  Catholics, who understand justification as a process and includes sanctification, do not need to reconcile Romans and James.

On the relation between justification and works Sproul wrote:

A living faith shows its life by obedience. Such works of obedience contribute nothing to our justification, but it the works are not present, that absence is proof positive that justification has not occurred.

Sproul: Are We Together, page 46

Note that while Sproul stated that works of obedience do not contribute to justification their absence indicates justification never takes place.  The question is how much works (amount and/or frequency) need to be present in order to manifest the existence of our faith-alone justification?  It is very unlikely to have a situation where works are totally absent in a believer, which according to Sproul means the person was not justified in the first place.  Even during Reformation Luther had to admit that good works are necessary for salvation, even though our justification is by faith alone[5].

  1. According to the Reformers through justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed on us while according to the Catholic Church the righteousness of God infused in us

The Reformers taught that through justification by faith alone we are declared righteous, whereby the righteousness Christ is imputed on us.  This means we are both righteous and sinner at the same time – there is no change within us. Thus a Christian man is righteous and a sinner at the same time[6], holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God, wrote Luther[7].  This does not mean the justified persons continue remaining like that; it is their state at the time they were justified by their faith alone – God will change them through sanctification[8].

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, through Council of Trent, defines justification as translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour[9].  Through justification the righteousness of God through Christ is infused by the Holy Spirit in us and this implies a change within us, from sinner to righteous, from enemy of God to child of God.  That’s why Catholics understand the Greek verb “to justify” to mean “to make righteous” and through justification we really become righteous.  Scripture does say through Christ we are made righteous (Romans 5:19).

Why did the Reformers believe in imputation?  Sproul gave the answer as follows:

The psalmist asked, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3). In other words, if we have to stand before God and face his perfect justice and perfect judgment of our performance, none of us would be able to pass review. We all would fall, because as Paul reiterates, all of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

Sproul: Are We Together, page 41

Thus according to Sproul we must have perfect performance in order to pass God’s perfect justice and perfect judgment, which is certainly impossible. That is the reason why we have to rely on Christ’ perfect righteousness, imputed on us to cover our unrighteousness.

The question is does the Bible teach that God demand from us to be perfectly righteous in order to pass His judgment?  Before answering that question, how does the Bible define as being righteous?  Ezekiel 18:5-9 provides us with definition of righteous persons, i.e. those who obey Commandments and they shall surely live (verse 9).  1 John 3:7 defines a righteous person as the one who does what is right, which is in agreement with Ezekiel. Does a righteous person must continue, without failing, not even once, in doing righteous acts?  If we read Ezekiel 18:24, 26 it seems it is the case, because it says if a righteous person commits iniquity then he shall die and none of the righteous things he did will be accounted for.  But Ezekiel 18:21-22, 27-28 says that if a wicked person turns away from his sins and commits righteous acts then he will live and none of his past sins will be accounted.  Based on those verses, what ultimately counts is our state when we die, whether we are in righteous state (the Catholic Church refers it as in the state of grace) or not.  Thus based on Scripture we don’t have to be perfectly and continuously righteous through-out our life to enter heaven.

But Scripture says: Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20, RSV).  Yet Scripture refers Noah (Genesis 6:9, Ezekiel 14:14), Daniel, Job (Ezekiel 14:14), even Lot (2 Peter 2:7) as righteous persons.  There are many verses indicating the existence of righteous persons, without naming them (Psalms 1:6, 5:12, 34:15, Matthew 5:45, 13:17, 10:41, 23:29, 1 Peter 3:12 etc.).  Certainly they are sinners while being righteous.  What Ecclesiastes 7:20 means is even righteous persons will commit sin – in other words being righteous is not being sinless. Protestants may argue that those righteous persons were only declared righteous through faith.  But when Christ said in Matthew 25:46 that the righteous will go into eternal life, their righteousness is not based on being declared righteous by faith, but on doing righteous acts (verses 34 to 36), which agrees with Ezekiel 18:5-9 and 1 John 3:7.

Catholics believe that our ability to do righteous acts is only possible with grace of God.  Thus what Sproul wrote on page 44 that infused righteousness means we will be judged by our own righteousness totally missed the point!  Our righteousness comes from God – it is His grace that enables us to believe in Christ and to obey His Commandments, which make us righteous according to Scripture.  Our justification comes from the grace of God[10]!

Based on Scripture (1 John 5:16-17), Catholics believe in the existence of deadly (or mortal) and non-deadly (or venial) sins.  Luther still believed in mortal and venial sins, though he defined it differently, i.e. the former is applicable to unbelievers while the latter to the believers[11]Similarly Calvin taught that only the Reprobate, i.e. those whom God predestines to hell, commit deadly sins[12].  Sproul was wrong when he wrote (on page 32) that there is no agreement in the Catholic Church on which sins are mortal.  Mortal sin is defined as sin whose object is grave matter (breaking any of Ten Commandments) and done with full knowledge and full consent[13].  Christ Himself said in Luke 10:28: “do this [the Commandments], and you will live”. What He said is in agreement with Ezekiel 18:5-9.  Catholics believe that we will enter heaven if we die in the state of grace, i.e. without any un-repented mortal sin.  That is why to Catholics both sacraments of Baptism and Penance are essential.  Through the former Original Sin (which we inherit from Adam), all past sins as well as punishment of sins are forgiven and through the latter sins and their punishment committed after Baptism are forgiven.  To Catholics Baptism is sacrament of regeneration that not only frees us from sin but also makes us reborn as sons of God. Through Baptism we enter the state of grace – thus our justification is conferred in Sacrament of Baptism[14]. Scripture says that through Baptism we have new life (Romans 6:4). Titus 3:5 talks about washing of regeneration, which the Catholic Church refers to Baptism – and so did Luther[15] and Calvin[16]. This state of grace is lost when we commit mortal sin and it is restored back through sacrament of Penance only if the person truly repents. We cannot repent unless we are moved by Grace. Contrary to what Sproul wrote Luther still believed in Baptism of Regeneration[17].  In 1519 he wrote a trilogy on three Sacraments: Penance, Baptism and Lord’s Supper; and one year later he dropped Sacrament of Penance[18].   Calvin taught that through Baptism all sins, including future sins, are forgiven[19].

According to Sproul confession of sins is not an issue; the issue is on the fact that repentant sinners must perform “works” (like pray, Scripture reading, acts of charity etc.) in order to return to the state of grace.  To him this means we do additional works for the forgiveness of sins, which was already accomplished by Christ on the cross.  Yet Scripture does not forbid expression of works as outward sign of repentance like fasting, weeping, wearing sackcloth (Jonah 3:8, Joel 2:12).  Without genuine repentance all those “works” are meaningless.

 

End Notes:

[1] Actually Luther did not write that phrase – the phrase appears in the Introduction of the Disputation Concerning Justification.

Though Luther was not a theological systematizer in the manner of Melanchthon or Calvin, he recognized that all aspects of evangelical theology were related to the one article of faith by which the church stands or falls. That is why he said in the preface to this disputation, “As you have often heard, most excellent brothers, because that one article concerning justification even by itself creates true theologians, therefore it is indispensable in the church and just as we must often recall it, so we must frequently work on it.”

Introduction to the Dispute Concerning Justification (underlined emphasis added)

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 34, page 147

[2] I cannot find official teaching (something equivalent to Catechism of the Catholic Church) of the Eastern Orthodox Church on justification, but the following links may help:

https://orthodoxwiki.org/Justification

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/how-are-we-saved

[3] God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices? The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable.

Calvin: Institutes of Christian Religion III.11.6

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2019, available at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P72.HTM.

[5] I reply to the argument, then, that our obedience is necessary for salvation. It is, therefore, a partial cause of our justification. Many things are necessary which are not a cause and do not justify, as for instance the earth is necessary, and yet it does not justify. If man the sinner wants to be saved, he must necessarily be present, just as he asserts that I must also be present. What Augustine says is true, “He who has created you without you will not save you without you.” Works are necessary to salvation, but they do not cause salvation, because faith alone gives life. On account of the hypocrites we must say that good works are necessary to salvation. It is necessary to work. Nevertheless, it does not follow that works save on that account, unless we understand necessity very clearly as the necessity that there must be an inward and outward salvation or righteousness. Works save outwardly, that is, they show evidence that we are righteous and that there is faith in a man which saves inwardly, as Paul says, “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” [Rom. 10:10]. Outward salvation shows faith to be present, just as fruit shows a tree to be good.

Luther: The Disputation Concerning Justification (underlined emphasis added)

English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 34, page 135

[6] The underlined phrase in Latin is simul iustus et peccator

[7].Luther: Lectures on Galatians. English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 26, page 232.

[8] Refer to end note 3

[9] Council of Trent: Chapter 4 of the Decree on Justification, available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds2.v.i.i.iv.html.

[10] Our Justification comes from the grace of God

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1996

[11] Therefore it is a pernicious error when the sophists distinguish among sins on the basis of the substance of the deed rather than on the basis of the persons. A believer’s sin is the same sin and sin just as great as that of the unbeliever. To the believer, however, it is forgiven and not imputed, while to the unbeliever it is retained and imputed. To the former it is venial; to the latter it is mortal. This is not because of a difference between the sins, as though the believer’s sin were smaller and the unbeliever’s larger, but because of a difference between the persons.

Luther: Lectures on Galatians

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 27, page 76

But from this text a gloss has flowed, namely, one sin is venial, another is mortal. I understand a mortal sin to be like the sin committed by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, about which one reads in Num. 16:15, where Moses prays against them, saying: “Lord do not respect their offerings. Thou knowest that I have never taken even an ass from them.” Sins of this kind are those that are committed under the guise of godliness and do not mean to be sins, as they actually are. Sins of this kind are those of the heretics, who are hardened after one or another rebuke.

Luther: Lectures on 1st epistle of John

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 30, page 324

[12] Calvin Commentary on 1 John, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom45.v.vi.v.html.

[13] Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1857 and # 1858 available at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P6C.HTM

[14] Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1992 available at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P6Y.HTM.

[15] Refer to end note 17

[16] Calvin Commentary on Titus 3:5 is available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom43.v.v.ii.html.

[17] In Titus 3:5 St. Paul terms Baptism “a washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” In the last chapter of Mark we read that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). And in this passage Christ declares that whoever is not born anew of the water and the Holy Spirit cannot come into the kingdom of God. Therefore God’s words dare not be tampered with. Of course, we are well aware that Baptism is natural water. But after the Holy Spirit is added to it, we have more than mere water. It becomes a veritable bath of rejuvenation, a living bath which washes and purges man of sin and death, which cleanses him of all sin.

Luther: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapter 3

English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 22, page 284

Baptism, then, signifies two things—death and resurrection, that is, full and complete justification. When the minister immerses the child in the water it signifies death, and when he draws it forth again it signifies life. Thus Paul expounds it in Rom. 6[:4]: “We were buried therefore with Christ by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” This death and resurrection we call the new creation, regeneration, and spiritual birth.

Luther: The Babylonian Captivity of the Church

English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 36, page 68

[18] Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I

[19] Institutes of Christian Religion IV.15.3, available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.vi.xvi.html

 

May 23, 2016 / vivator

A Review of Sproul Book: Are We Together, Part 1

Part 1: Scripture

for pdf file of this post click here

Dr. Robert Charles Sproul (born 1939) is an American Reformed theologian, author of numerous books, and the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries.  He is known to be critical to Catholicism; in one of his latest books: Are We Together, he examined six major differences between teachings of the Catholic Church and those of Reformed Church.  Those six are: authority of Scripture, Justification, Church, Sacraments, Papal Infallibility and Mariology.

Sproul considered authority of Scripture as the formal cause of Reformation.  The other cause, the so-called material cause is justification.  Those two causes were expressed in the two battle cries of the Reformers: sola fide (faith alone) and sola scriptura (scripture alone).

Sproul affirmed that in the Catholic Church has high view of Scripture, including its divine authorship and its inerrancy.  Citing from fourth Session of Trent Council (held on April 1546)[1] he reiterated that according to Catholic teaching Scriptures have come to us either directly from mouth of Christ or His apostles or from the Apostles under dictation of the Holy Spirit (Latin Spiritu Sancto dictante) and both Old and New Testaments have God as their author.  Sproul questioned the word “dictation” as it implies elimination of any human authors to the biblical text, leaving no room for individual styles, perspective, concerns, and so on.  Dictation theory of Scripture has been rejected by Protestants.  He admitted that Trent did not elaborate what it meant by “the Holy Spirit dictating”.   Trent documents were written in sixteenth century and Latin word for dictation has different meaning as it has today.  John Calvin, when in 1536, wrote his monumental work Institutes of Christian Religion in Latin used the same word in “Deus intus dictante” in Book IV.8.5[2].  The English translation by Henry Beveridge of that phrase is “inward teaching of God”, which may represent closer meaning of Lain word “dictante” in sixteenth century.

Sproul questioned Vatican II decree on inerrancy of Scripture.  To him Vatican II made the Catholic Church depart from previous teachings on inerrancy of the Bible as taught by past popes and councils.  The phrase he questions is in Dei Verbum III.11[3] which says “The books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted to put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.”  He argues that the phrase “for the sake of salvation” makes inerrancy of Scripture only applicable to salvation, in contrary to previous teachings that did not limit the application of inerrancy – though they did admit the use of figurative language in Scripture.  He pointed out that there are two groups within the Catholic Church, the conservative who believe that inerrancy of Scriptures covers all that it says and the liberal who believe Vatican II did restrict inerrancy only to scriptural teachings on salvation.  An article in Called to Communion web site should clarify the issue[4].

As for positional differences on Scripture, Sproul enumerated two differences.  The first one is Canon of Scripture because Catholic Old Testament has more books than that of Protestant.  Citing from Trent Sproul listed books not found in Protestant Bible as 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobias, Judith, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees and other books.  Those books are referred as deuterocanonica (second canon, a term coined by Sixtus of Sienna in 1546) by Catholics and as apocrypha by Protestants. Sproul made mistake by including 1 and 2 Esdras, which are Trent designation for Ezra and Nehemiah (Trent did say 2 Esdras or Nehemiah) in the list; those two books are also part of Protestant Bible.  There are apocryphal books with the name Esdras but they are not part of Catholic Bible.  Nomenclature of books of Esdras (Greek for Ezra) is indeed confusing as the same name is applied to different books or the same book has different names[5].  Sproul could confuse those two canonical books with apocryphal 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras of KJV (until 1885 KJV has apocryphal books sandwiched between Old and New Testaments).

There is no single verse in the Bible that tells us how many and which books belong to the Bible.  According to Sproul orthodox Protestants believe that canon of Scripture is fallible collection of infallible books while to the Catholic Church it is infallible collection of infallible books. He explained what he meant by fallible collection of infallible books using illustration as follows:

We can perhaps illustrate the difference between the Protestant and Roman Catholic positions by imagining that God gave us ten books, five of which were infallible and five of which were fallible, containing errors. Then He charged us to separate and identify the infallible books.  If we were fallible, we might correctly select four of the five infallible books.  However, we also might identify one of those fallible books as infallible. Our decisions, of course, would not change the nature of the books. The one infallible book we did not select would still be infallible, even though we failed to include it in our “canon”. Likewise, the fallible book we picked would not therefore be infallible. Our decisions would have no effect in this way because we are fallible.

Sproul: Are We Together, page 22-23

Sproul’s illustration of the concept “fallible collection of infallible books” begs a number of questions.  It says that God gave us both infallible and fallible erroneous books.  Why would God give us the latter? Does the illustration imply that: (1) Protestant Bible might contain fallible book(s) and (2) the existence of infallible books not part of Protestant canon?  Using the above illustration the concept should be called “fallible collection of infallible and fallible books”, isn’t it?  Those two kinds of books is the outcome of fallible collection as shown in the illustration.  But Sproul insisted that those Protestant selected books are infallible.  In other words he simply contradicted the illustration he himself made:

We [Protestants] hold that the church was called to make decisions in history as to whether certain books belonged in the canon, and while those decisions were made with much study and passed through a historical sifting, it is conceivable that the church could have made mistakes in what it included or excluded.  However, the books that were chosen are regarded as individually infallible.

Sproul: Are We Together, page 22 (underlined emphasis added)

When God gave us infallible revelation in the form of books written by men, why wouldn’t He give us guidance to recognize them among so many other books?  This is what the Catholic Church believes, i.e. Holy Spirit guides the Church to select those infallible books.  The Church is not infallible by her own power, which Sproul wrongly accused on page 23, but is infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit to determine which and how many books belong to the Bible.

The second Scripture related difference between Catholic and Protestant is the existence of unwritten Tradition which the Catholic Church considers together with (written) Scripture as revelation from God and therefore are both authoritative.  The Reformers, of course, considered only Scripture as revelation from God.  God’s special revelation comes only in the Scriptures, wrote Sproul on page 23.  On page 24 Sproul pointed out that the draft of Trent said “the truth of God is found partly (Latin partim) in Scripture and partly in tradition” but the final document said “truth of God is contained in Scripture and (Latin et) in tradition”.  He argued that the use of “and”, instead of “partly”, make Trent statement ambiguous and implies that tradition is not source of revelation.  Sproul draw this conclusion because as a Presbyterian he cannot say that truth of God is contained in Scripture and in the Westminster Confession of Faith.[6]   Here he made very poor comparison – for sure Westminster Confession of Faith is not the words of God because it is not inspired by the Holy Spirit, something that Sproul himself or any Reformed Christian would freely admit.  In contrast Trent defined tradition as truth coming from Christ and His apostles through the Holy Spirit dictation.

This truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even to us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand.

Trent: Decree concerning canonical Scriptures

The use of Latin “et” meaning “and”, not Latin “partim” meaning “partly”, even reinforces dual (and equal) source of revelation (Scripture and Tradition) as taught by the Catholic Church.  Even Protestants would say that the words of God are to be found in Old Testament and in New Testament; they would not say “they are found partly in Old Testament and partly in New Testament”, which in fact sounds ambiguous.

Sproul ended the first chapter with the question who has the right to interpret Scripture. Is that right reserved only to the Catholic Church as Magisterium (Teaching Office) or does every Christian have it?  Every Christian has the right to interpret the Bible for himself or herself, he wrote on page 28.  He explained further about that right:

However this “right” does not include the freedom to misinterpret Scripture.  Before God, we do not have the right to be wrong.  With the right of private interpretation comes the responsibility to interpret the Bible correctly, not turning the Bible into a lump of clay that can be twisted, shaped, and distorted to fit our own biases.

Sproul: Are We Together, page 28

The question is how to know who has the right interpretation of the Bible?  Everybody claims that he or she is guided by the Holy Spirit to interpret the same passage in the Bible yet they end-up with different and even conflicting interpretations. This leads to establishment of different churches with different theological teachings yet all claims to rely on the Bible alone as rule of faith.  This even happens within Reformed churches itself – a good example is the conflict between supralapsarian and infralapsarian Calvinists on the issue whether God’s decree of salvation was made before (supra) or after (infra) the Fall.

End Notes

[1] Latin and English translation can be found at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds2.v.i.i.html

[2] Calvin Institutes in Latin and its English translation can be found in www.ccel.org. Book IV.8.5 in Latin can be assessed at:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutio2/Page_272.html.

[3] http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

[4] http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/10/vatican-ii-and-the-inerrancy-of-the-bible/

[5] Columns 2 to 5 shows the same book with different names according column 1

Tanakh Ezra – Nehemiah
Septuagint 2 Esdras 1 Esdras
Vulgate 1 Esdras 2 Esdras 3 Esdras 4 Esdras
Trent, Douay Rheims 1 Esdras 2 Esdras (Nehemiah)
KJV, RSV Ezra Nehemiah 1 Esdras 2 Esdras
OSB 2 Ezra Nehemiah 1 Ezra

Tanakh, the acronym of Torah (the Law), Nevim (the Prophets) and Kethuvim (the Writings) is Jewish scripture.

Septuagint or LXX is Greek translation of Jewish Scripture (and other books) from where most of New Testament quotation of Old Testament made.

Ezra and Nehemiah are combined into one book in Tanakh and in Septuagint (2 Esdras).

Vulgate is Latin translation of Old and New Testament made by Jerome in 4th century AD.  3 Esdras and 4 Esdras were part of its appendix.

Douay-Rheims is Catholic English translation of the Bible completed in 1582 (New Testament) and in 1609-1610 (Old Testament).

KJV (King James Version) is English translation completed in 1611.

RSV (Revised Standard Version) is English translation published in 1946 (New Testament) and in 1951 (Old and New Testaments).  Following request from General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, translation of apocryphal books were added in 1952.

OSB (Orthodox Study Bible) is Eastern Orthodox English translation of Old Testament based on Septuagint published in 1993; its New Testament is NKJV (New KJV) translation.

[6] The Westminster Confession of Faith, which was promulgated in 1646 and is still adopted today by most Reformed churches, is Confession of faith in Reformed/Calvinist theological tradition.

For text refer to http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

December 22, 2014 / vivator

Revised post on “Synergism and Monergism: which one is scriptural?”

I revised and added brief introduction and analogy to my post on “Synergism and Monergism: which one is scriptural?” to help those who are not familiar with the issue to understand.  You may also click here for pdf file of the post

March 7, 2014 / vivator

Synergism and Monergism: Which one is scriptural?

It has been almost two years since I wrote my last post.  Today I just posted as page (on top, below title of blog) my post on synergism and monergism.
You may also click here for pdf file of the post

May 31, 2012 / vivator

My second post on: Was Augustine a monergist?

Monergistic regeneration means that regeneration is accomplished by a single actor, God. It means literally a “one-working.” [R.C. Sproul: Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, pages 23].  As indicated in Sproul’s statement, monergism is closely tied to regeneration and this regeneration precedes faith.

The Reformers taught not only that regeneration does precede faith but also it must precede faith.  Because of the moral bondage of the unregenerate sinner, he cannot have faith until he is changed internally by the operative, monergistic work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is regeneration’s fruit, not its cause.

R.C. Sproul: Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, pages 23

How about conversion and sanctification?  According to Sproul and Berkhof these two are not monergistic in nature but synergistic.

This view is clearly monergistic at the initial point of the sinner’s movement from unbelief to faith. The whole process, however, is not monergistic.  Once the operative grace of regeneration is given, the rest of the process is synergistic. That is, after the soul has been changed by effectual or irresistible grace, the person himself chooses Christ.  God does not make the choice for him. It is the person who believes, not God who believes for him. Indeed the rest of the Christian life of sanctification unfolds in a synergistic pattern.

There is much confusion about the debate between monergism and synergism. When Augustinianism is defined as monergistic, one must remember that it is monergistic with respect to the beginning of salvation, not to the whole process. Augustinianism does not reject all synergism, but does reject a synergism that is all synergism.

R.C. Sproul: Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, pages 73

Regeneration, then, is to be conceived monergistically. God alone works, and the sinner has no part in it whatsoever. This, of course, does not mean, that man does not co-operate in later stages of the work of redemption. It is quite evident from Scripture that he does.

Berkhof, Systematic Theology, page 473

But though God only is the author of conversion, it is of great importance to stress the fact, over against a false passivity, that there is’ also a certain co-operation of man in conversion.

ibid, page 490

We can conclude that according to both Berkhof and Sproul: (1) only regeneration is monergistic in nature; (2) regeneration takes place before (synergistic) conversion and (synergistic) sanctification and (3) regeneration is distinct from conversion and sanctification.  Interestingly, according to Berkhof’s investigation this view is a later development, i.e. it comes neither from Luther nor Calvin.

Luther did not entirely escape the confusion of regeneration with justification. Moreover, he spoke of regeneration or the new birth in a rather broad sense. Calvin also used the term in a very comprehensive sense as a designation of the whole process by which man is renewed, including, besides the divine act which originates the new life, also conversion (repentance and faith) and sanctification [Inst. III.3.9]. Several seventeenth century authors fail to distinguish between regeneration and conversion, and use the two terms interchangeably, treating of what we now call regeneration under vocation or effectual calling. The Canons of Dort also use the two words synonymously [III and IV. 11, 12], and the Belgic Confession seems to speak regeneration in an even wider sense [Art. XXIV].

Berkhof, Systematic Theology, page 466

 In contrast Sproul concluded that the Reformers (plural, presumably Luther and Calvin) held the same view as he and Berkhof do (refer to his statement at the beginning of this post). According to Berkhof neither did the early Church believe the same view. Yet at the same time he insisted that Augustine adopted monergism in the same way he and Sproul believe.

In the mind of the early Church the term “regeneration” did not stand for a sharply defined concept. It was used to denote a change closely connected with the washing away of sins, and no clear distinction was made between regeneration and justification. As identified with baptismal grace, the former was understood especially as a designation of the remission of sin, though the idea of a certain moral renovation was not excluded. Even Augustine did not draw a sharp line here, but did distinguish between regeneration and conversion. To him regeneration included, in addition to the remission of sin, only an initial change of the heart, followed by conversion later on. He conceived of it as a strictly monergistic work of God, in which the human subject cannot cooperate, and which man cannot resist

Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pages 465-466

Berkhof wrote that Augustine’s regeneration includes remission of sin through baptism – something that neither he nor Sproul believe.  He did not provide us the source of Augustine statement either.  It is unlikely that Augustine believed in remission of sins (through baptism) as part of regeneration that takes place before conversion, unless he wrote about infant baptism. As pointed out correctly by Berkhof, to Augustine regeneration takes place in (Sacrament of) Baptism – something that is also admitted by Sproul (just like Berkhof, at the same time he also insisted that Augustine taught monergism in the same way present-day Calvinists understand):

It must be noted that here [Council of Orange decrees], as well as in Augustine, the grace of regeneration is effected by the sacrament of baptism.  Baptismal regeneration was later rejected categorically by Calvinists as well as most other Protestants.

R.C. Sproul: Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, pages 76

The fact that Augustine taught baptism of regeneration, which is still the belief of the Catholic Church, is undeniable.  In the words of Augustine (underlined emphasis added)

As a consequence, then, of this disobedience of the flesh and this law of sin and death, whoever is born of the flesh has need of spiritual regeneration—not only that he may reach the kingdom of God, but also that he may be freed from the damnation of sin. Hence men are on the one hand born in the flesh liable to sin and death from the first Adam, and on the other hand are born again in baptism associated with the righteousness and eternal life of the second Adam; even as it is written in the book of Ecclesiasticus: “Of the woman came the beginning of sin, and through her we all die.” [Ecclesiasticus or Sirach 25:24]

Augustine, a Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, Book I Chapter 21

If any man, however, is still perplexed by the question why the children of baptized persons are baptized, let him briefly consider this: Inasmuch as the generation of sinful flesh through the one man, Adam, draws into condemnation all who are born of such generation, so the generation of the Spirit of grace through the one man Jesus Christ, draws to the justification of eternal life all who, because predestinated, partake of this regeneration. But the sacrament of baptism is undoubtedly the sacrament of regenation: Wherefore, as the man who has never lived cannot die, and he who has never died cannot rise again, so he who has never been born cannot be born again. From which the conclusion arises, that no one who has not been born could possibly have been born again in his father. Born again, however, a man must be, after he has been born; because, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” [John 3:5] Even an infant, therefore, must be imbued with the sacrament of regeneration, lest without it his would be an unhappy exit out of this life; and this baptism is not administered except for the remission of sins. And so much does Christ show us in this very passage; for when asked, How could such things be? He reminded His questioner of what Moses did when he lifted up the serpent. Inasmuch, then, as infants are by the sacrament of baptism conformed to the death of Christ, it must be admitted that they are also freed from the serpent’s poisonous bite, unless we wilfully wander from the rule of the Christian faith. This bite, however, they did not receive in their own actual life, but in him on whom the wound was primarily inflicted.

Augustine, a Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, Book II Chapter 43

Augustine also stated that regeneration that begins in Baptism will be continued through-out our life (here he equates regeneration with renewal) – something that both Berkhof and Sproul (and any Calvinist of today) will reject.

For it is not from the moment of a man’s baptism that all his old infirmity is destroyed, but renovation begins with the remission of all his sins, and so far as he who is now wise is spiritually wise. All things else, however, are accomplished in hope, looking forward to their being also realized in fact, even to the renewal of the body itself in that better state of immortality and incorruption with which we shall be clothed at the resurrection of the dead. For this too the Lord calls a regeneration,—though, of course, not such as occurs through baptism, but still a regeneration wherein that which is now begun in the spirit shall be brought to perfection also in the body. “In the regeneration,” says He, “when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Matthew 19:28] For however entire and full be the remission of sins in baptism, nevertheless, if there was wrought by it at once, an entire and full change of the man into his everlasting newness,—I do not mean change in his body, which is now most clearly tending evermore to the old corruption and to death, after which it is to be renewed into a total and true newness,—but, the body being excepted, if in the soul itself, which is the inner man, a perfect renewal was wrought in baptism, the apostle would not say: “Even though our outward man perishes, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” [2 Corinthians 4:16] Now, undoubtedly, he who is still renewed day by day is not as yet wholly renewed; and in so far as he is not yet wholly renewed, he is still in his old state. Since, then, men, even after they are baptized, are still in some degree in their old condition, they are on that account also still children of the world; but inasmuch as they are also admitted into a new state, that is to say, by the full and perfect remission of their sins, and in so far as they are spiritually-minded, and behave correspondingly, they are the children of God. Internally we put off the old man and put on the new; for we then and there lay aside lying, and speak truth, and do those other things wherein the apostle makes to consist the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness [Ephesians 4:24]. Now it is men who are already baptized and faithful whom he exhorts to do this,—an exhortation which would be unsuitable to them, if the absolute and perfect change had been already made in their baptism. And yet made it was, since we were then actually saved; for “He saved us by the laver of regeneration.” [Titus 3:5] In another passage, however, he tells us how this took place. “Not they only,” says he, “but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” [Romans 8:23-25]

Augustine, a Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, Book II Chapter 9

To conclude since Augustine understanding of regeneration does not match with that of present-day Calvinists (who consider that only regeneration is monergistic in nature), he was not a monergist (and will never be).