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June 7, 2021 / vivator

A Catholic Response to Five Sola’s of Reformation: Soli Deo Gloria

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The five sola’s (Latin word that means alone or only) are the battle cries of 16th century Reformers against the Catholic Church.  Those five may be expressed in one sentence as: We are saved by grace alone [sola gratia], through faith alone [sola fide], in Christ alone [solus Christus or solo Christo], as revealed in Scripture alone [sola scriptura], to the glory of God alone [soli Deo gloria][i].  We now examine soli Deo Gloria or to the glory of God alone.

While the meaning of for the glory of God does not need any explanation, the reason why they add the word “alone” is described below:

By holding forth soli Deo gloria as the lifeblood of the solas, we remind ourselves that the biblical religion recaptured by the Reformation is not ultimately about ourselves, but about God. Our focus so easily becomes self-centered, even when we ask the same important questions that occupied the Reformers: Where can I find God’s authoritative revelation? How can I escape the wrath of God? What must I do to be saved? The other four solas provide necessary and life-changing answers to such questions, but soli Deo gloria puts them in proper perspective: the highest purpose of God’s plan of salvation in Christ, made known in Scripture, is not our own beatitude, wonderful as that is. The highest purpose is God’s own glory. God glorifies himself through the abundant blessings he bestows upon us.

VanDrunen[ii], D.: God’s Glory Alone, page 15-16 (underlined emphasis added)

Because the Catholic Church rejects the first four sola’s, according to VanDrunen glory in Catholicism does not belong to God’s alone, but it is shared between God and men.

If the Roman Catholic doctrine of authority and doctrine of salvation are true, all glory thus does not belong to God alone.

the Reformers called the church back to Scripture alone, to faith alone, to grace alone, and to Christ alone, and by so doing they reminded us that all glory belongs to God and not to ourselves.

ibid., page 15, 24 (underlined emphasis added)

While The Catholic Church does not adopt the slogan soli Deo Gloria, neither does she teach that we can have a share in God’s glory.   Catholic’s rejection of the first four sola’s, if properly understood and not caricatured, does not lead to that conclusion either.

Sola Scriptura

While the Reformers claimed that Scripture alone is the authority for Christian faith and life, Roman Catholics professed reverence for Scripture but insisted that the church’s tradition and the Pope in Rome stood alongside Scripture to interpret it infallibly and to augment its teaching.

ibid., page 14

Here VanDrunen wrote “the church’s tradition”, as if that tradition came only from the church and not from God.   The Catholic Church, on the other hand, differentiates between Apostolic Tradition and Church (Ecclesial) tradition.  VanDrunen in his statement above mentioned only the latter.  The former comes from the Apostles, which they learnt from Christ and from the Holy Spirit (after His Ascension to heaven), who will guide them in truth (John 16:13)[iii].   The existence of this Tradition (Greek noun paradosiV, paradosis) is found in Scripture (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6).  Before the first book of New Testament was written, the teaching of Christ and of His apostles were circulated orally.  Even New Testament, from Catholic point of view, is Tradition in written form.  New Testament never claims that it contains all those oral Tradition.  Apostolic Tradition is unchangeable while the Church tradition is changeable[iv].

Scripture cannot stand by itself – it needs authority (1) to determine which books and how many of them belong to Scripture and (2) to interpret it.  While Protestants reject the authority of the Catholic Church, they still need their authority to do the above two.  There is no single verse in Scripture that gives list of inspired books.  Neither did God drop that list from heaven, to be discovered by the Church – some sort of Treasure Hunt.  Catholics believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, will guide the Church both to determine the canon (list of inspired books) of Scripture and to interpret it.  Well, so do the Protestants, even though they never acknowledge it openly. They insist that Scripture has only 66 books because they were told so, and strictly follow their denomination or their leaders’ interpretation of Scripture.

As both Scripture and Apostolic Tradition come from God and the Church is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church does not have a share in the glory, which exclusively belongs to God.

Sola Gratia, Sola Fide and Solus Christus

Salvation by Christ alone, through grace alone, by faith alone means that all glory goes to God alone.

ibid., page 20

Instead of through grace alone, they think Catholics believe we are saved by grace plus merits in our cooperation with that grace.  They simply confuse what is known as synergism[v] with semi-pelagianism[vi].   In the latter, grace and our will are two independent and mutually exclusive agents who are working together.   God provide grace for us, but it depends on us whether we accept that grace or not.  This is not Catholic teaching, and it was condemned as early as 525 AD in the council of Orange.  In synergism, on the other hand, our (free) will is produced by grace.  There is Election in synergism, or God chose whom He wanted to be saved or the Elect.  In contrast there is no Election in semi-pelagianism.  In synergism God gives the Elect what Catholics define as efficacious grace, which makes our will freely cooperate.  Our merits in Catholic teaching also come from grace, or they are gift from God[vii], not something we deserve like we merit our salary through our job.

In relation to sola fide or (justification) by faith alone, they accuse Catholics of believing in justification by faith plus works.  By works they understand it to mean our own produced works, as if we have our contribution in our justification.  The official Catholic teaching is our justification comes from God’s grace[viii].  It is grace that enables us to freely believe in Christ and to freely obey His Commandments during our sanctification.   By ourselves we can neither believe in Christ nor obey His Commandments, and therefore can never be justified. 

For Catholics justification is a process that includes sanctification. It changes our state, from unrighteous state to righteous one.  The Reformers, on the other hand, taught that justification is instantaneous and is by faith alone. Justification is separated from sanctification, but these two must come together in a saved person life.  It only changes our status, or we are counted as righteous, but it does not change our state, or we are justified and sinner at the same time.

Because Catholics believe that we are made righteous through justification, they think Catholics believe we are saved by Christ and the Church, as the latter will make grace infused in us through Sacraments.    But the Catholic Church does not teach that the Church can produce grace through Sacraments.  Being the Body of Christ, the Church is inseparable from the Head, Christ Himself.

Seated at the right hand of the Father [Acts 7:55, Romans 8:34] and pouring out the Holy Spirit on his Body which is the Church, Christ now acts through the sacraments he instituted to communicate his grace.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1084

The reason why infusing grace through Sacraments is problematic for Protestants is their belief that we do not need to be righteous to be saved.  They say that we can never be able to become righteous.  We always fall short and cannot meet God’s standard of righteousness.  The only solution is accepting righteousness of Christ by faith alone, which will be imputed on us, or we are righteous externally but remain sinners inside.  When we die and stand before God for judgment, instead of looking at our sins, God will look at righteousness of Christ and therefore let us enter heaven.  Catholics agree that by our own effort we can never become righteous.  Our righteousness does come from God through Christ.  Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ (ibid. # 1991).  Scripture says through Christ we are made righteous (Romans 5;19) and the righteous shall go to eternal life (Matthew 25:46).

To conclude, while the Catholic Church does not (and will not) adopt sola gratia, sola fide and solus Christus, Catholics do not believe we and/or the Church take a portion of glory that exclusively belongs to God.


[i]       https://www.ligonier.org/blog/five-solas/

[ii]       David VanDrunen (born 1971) is Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary, California (www.wscal.edu).

[iii]      The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 83

[iv]      Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time.

        In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 83

[v]       from Greek syn (together) and ergon (work)

[vi]      from Pelagius (ca. 350 – ca 425)

[vii]    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.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2008

        The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.

        Our merits are God’s gifts.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2009

[viii]    Our justification comes from the grace of God

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1996

June 1, 2021 / vivator

A Catholic response to Five Sola’s of Reformation: Solus Christus

for pdf file of this post click here

The five sola’s (Latin word that means alone or only) are the battle cries of 16th century Reformers against the Catholic Church.  Those five may be expressed in one sentence as: We are saved by grace alone [sola gratia], through faith alone [sola fide], in Christ alone [solus Christus or solo Christo], as revealed in Scripture alone [sola scriptura], to the glory of God alone [soli Deo gloria][i].  We now examine solus Christus (nominative case), that means Christ alone, or solo Christos (ablative case), that means by Christ alone.

As usual we begin with how they define solus Christus:

Solus Christus expresses the biblical conviction that there is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5 ESV), and that therefore “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV). Christ’s identity is absolutely exclusive and his work entirely sufficient. We have no need, then, for any other prophet to provide us with a new revelation, any other priest to mediate between us and God, or any other king to rule Christ’s church. Christ alone stands at the center of God’s eternal purposes, Christ alone is the object of our saving faith, and therefore Christ alone must stand at the very center of our theology.

Reeves, M.[ii]: Foreword, in Wellum S.[iii]: Christ Alone, page 13 (underlined emphasis added)

In solus Christus, what they reject is Catholic teaching of inherent or infused righteousness in our salvation, which they claim to undermine sufficiency of Christ’ work on the cross. 

The end result is that Rome undercuts the sufficiency of Christ’s work and our justification before God by faith alone in Christ alone. In Rome’s view, Christ saves us in tandem with the intervening role of the church in infusing divine grace in us via the sacraments.

Wellum, S.: Christ Alone, page 262 (underlined emphasis added)

Catholics do not believe that Christ and the Church work in tandem or Christ plus Church in our salvation.  In 1 Corinthians 3:9 Paul used Greek adjective sunergoV (sunergos) that means fellow or co-worker, to denote that the apostles are God’s co-worker.  This does not mean that they work in tandem with God, as if without them God cannot accomplish His works.   God does not need any help from us as He can do it everything by Himself, but He does graciously involve us in His works.  A good example is those who work as missionaries, they do not work in tandem with Christ to bring good news to others.  Christ Himself alone can bring good news to anybody on earth, wherever he lives and whatever language he understands.  God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace, said the Catechism of the Catholic Church[iv].  While the Catholic Church does not adopt solus Christus slogan of the Reformers, she neither teaches Christ plus the Church (through which grace is infused in us) works together in our salvation.  Christ and the Church are not exclusively two independent agents working together to dispense grace.  Colossians 1:18 says: He [Christ] is the head of the body, the Church.   Christ and the Church are inseparable and the Church, being His Body, cannot exist without Him.  

According to the Catholic Church, our justification, meaning being made righteous by God, is a process that starts with faith[v] and includes sanctification as well as remission or forgiveness of sins[vi].   Catholics do believe that justification has been merited by Christ through His Passion on the cross, but Christ (and God) did not stop there – God through Christ will transform us from our unrighteous state to righteous one, as Scripture says through Him we are made righteous (Romans 5:19).  Being made righteous implies infusing grace from God through Christ and this grace does reach us through the Church, which is Christ’ Body, inseparable from Him, the Head.  By rejecting the role of Church through solus Christus slogan, the Reformers reduced the Church into just an exclusive club of fellow believers where they can have fellowship with one another who share the same belief.  

The Reformers taught that through instantaneous justification, we are counted as righteous based on alien/external righteousness of Christ, accepted by faith alone, imputed on us, covering our sins or we are justified and sinners at the same time (in Latin simul iustus et peccator).   While other Reformers like John Calvin[vii] and Philipp Melanchthon[viii] wrote that justification also includes remission/forgiveness of sins, what they meant is our entire sins, including future sins (that we commit after having faith), will not be counted on us – they will be counted on Christ.  Luther wrote: he who is in grace cannot sin, no matter what he does, but remains in grace, so he who is in sin, cannot do good, no matter what he does, but remains in sins[ix]Wellum expressed what they believe, in contrast to Catholic teaching, in his statement:

the Reformers also rejected the idea that Christ’s work only pays for our past/original sin, but in terms of our present and future sin, we are saved by a combination of Christ’s merit and our sacramental incorporation into Christ via the church. By receiving the sacraments, Christ’s work is applied to us and our natures are infused with divine grace, thus transforming our natures and enabling us to cooperate with God to merit eternal life.

ibid., page 262 (underlined emphasis added)

Their belief that we will remain sinner and righteous (externally) after having faith in Christ is also stated in the Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology:

Christians are righteous and sinners at the same time – righteous because our sin is covered by the perfect righteousness of Christ and sinful because in and of ourselves we are still prone to follow the cravings of the flesh.

Donald K McKim (editor): The Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology, page 202

However, Scripture says in Ezekiel 33:12: the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins.   In other words, scripturally, we cannot be both righteous, be it externally (imputed) or internally (infused), and sinner at the same time.  Ezekiel 18:20 says: The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.   This verse denies that we can be counted as righteous based on righteousness of Christ, as well as denying that our sins can be counted on Christ.  

The Greek verb translated as “to justify” in Romans 4:5 is dikaiow (dikaioo). To Catholics it means to make righteous (Greek adjective dikaioV, dikaios), while according to the Reformers it means to declare or to count as righteous.   Thus, Catholics believe that we are made righteous by faith because faith is counted as righteousness (Greek noun dikaiosune, dikaiosune).  Having faith is certainly one of the acts that makes us righteous as defined in 1 John 3:7: he who does what is right (Greek noun dikaiosune). is righteous (Greek adjective dikaioV). 

Why is being righteous crucial in our salvation?  Scripture says that the righteous (Greek adjective dikaioV) shall go to eternal life.   They are not counted as righteous by faith, but they are (made) righteous as they do acts (Matthew 25:25-36) that make them righteous, again, as defined in 1 John 3:7.   This is the scriptural reason why according to the Catholic Church we are made righteous through our justification (Greek noun dikaiwsiV, dikaiosis).   We need to emphasize that we do not and cannot become righteous by ourselves, but only by God through Christ, as Scripture says through Him we are made righteous (Romans 5:19).  Our ability to do, and even to will, what is right comes from and is only possible by grace through Christ; as apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

As Scripture says in Ezekiel 33:12 that we lose our righteousness through sinning, then our sins, committed after having faith, do affect our salvation. The Reformers on the other hand, taught that those sins will not affect us because as believers, we have righteousness of Christ counted on us.  James 1:15 says that full-grown sin brings forth death and this statement is addressed to believers.  Scripture also says in 1 John 5:16-17 there are deadly (or mortal) and non-deadly (or venial) sins.   To reconcile these verses with his teaching Luther wrote that mortal sins are committed by non-believers, while believers commit venial ones, and even those venial sins are not counted on them:

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. For the believer knows that his sin is forgiven him on account of Christ, who has expiated it by His death. Even though he has sin and commits sin, he remains godly. On the other hand, when the unbeliever commits sin, he remains ungodly. This is the wisdom and the comfort of those who are truly godly, that even if they have sins and commit sins, they know that because of their faith in Christ these are not imputed to them.

Luther, M.: Lectures on Galatians, Chapter 5-6 (underlined emphasis added)

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

Expressing in different words, Calvin also wrote that God will not give over to death those whom He has restored (regenerated) to life (or the believers).

The Apostle [John], however, does not here distinguish between venial and mortal sin, as it was afterwards commonly done. For altogether foolish is that distinction which prevails under the Papacy.

What, then, is the meaning of the Apostle? He denies that sins are mortal, which, though worthy of death, are yet not thus punished by God. He therefore does not estimate sins in themselves, but forms a judgment of them according to the paternal kindness of God, which pardons the guilt, where yet the fault is. In short, God does not give over to death those whom he has restored to life, though it depends not on them that they are not alienated from life.

Calvin, J.: Commentary on 1 John (underlined emphasis added)

available online at www.ccel.org

Reformed scholar Sproul wrote that mortal and venial sins are teachings of the Catholic Church[x].  For sure Sproul was aware of 1 John 5:16-17, but for reason best known to himself (and he took it with him to his grave), he preferred to label mortal and venial sins as Catholic teaching.

At this point we need to mention Catholic teaching of actual grace and sanctifying grace.  There is a number classification of grace in the Catholic Church but these two are relevant here.  Actual grace refers to grace that enables us to freely believe in Christ, as well as to freely obey His Commandments, including repenting, in our sanctification.  Sanctifying grace, on the other hand, is grace that makes us righteous.  Sanctifying grace is given through Sacraments, and this is the reason why Sacraments are necessary for our salvation[xi].   They are not competitors of Christ as sanctifying grace given through Sacraments also comes from Him.

Before coming to Christ as adults, we are sinner and sins make us lose our righteousness (Ezekiel 33:12).   Through Sacrament of Baptism, we are freed from sins.    While by faith we are made righteous and marks the beginning of our justification, justification is conferred at Baptism[xii].  Therefore, Baptism is necessary for salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21) of those who hear the Gospel and have the chance to take it[xiii].  Baptism is sacrament of regeneration (Titus 3:5), that is through Baptism we are born again (John 3:3,5) as sons of God[xiv].  Romans 6:3-4 says (underlined emphasis added): We were buried therefore with Him 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.  The most common argument against necessity of Baptism is taken from Luke 23:42-43, when Jesus said to one criminal crucified with Him, that he will be with Him in paradise, without Baptism, after he expressed his faith in Him.   However, he had no chance for Baptism as he was hanged on the cross, and because he died shortly after, had no chance to sin as well.  In this case he went to heaven by his faith.

Luther still believed in Baptism of Regeneration and through Baptism we are born again. He also taught that Baptism is necessary for salvation and that Baptism erases past sins. 

The significance of baptism is a blessed dying unto sin and a resurrection in the grace of God, so that the old man, conceived and born in sin, is there drowned, and a new man, born in grace, comes forth and rises. Thus St. Paul, in Titus 3[:5], calls baptism a “washing of regeneration,” since in this washing a person is born again and made new. As Christ also says, in John 3[:3, 5], “Unless you are born again of water and the Spirit (of grace), you may not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” For just as a child is drawn out of his mother’s womb and is born, and through this fleshly birth is a sinful person and a child of wrath [Eph. 2:3], so one is drawn out of baptism and is born spiritually. Through this spiritual birth he is a child of grace and a justified person. Therefore sins are drowned in baptism, and in place of sin, righteousness comes forth.

Luther: The Holy and Blesses Sacrament of Baptism

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 35, page 30

These every person must know. In the first place, note the command of God, which is very stern when he says: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). This is a strict command; if a person wants to be saved, let him be baptized; otherwise he is in God’s disfavor.

Luther: Sermons I (underlined emphasis added)

English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 51, page 182-183

From this it follows, to be sure, that when someone comes forth out of baptism, he is truly pure, without sin, and wholly guiltless.

Luther, M.: Word and Sacrament I (underlined emphasis added)

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 35, page 32

Calvin also related Titus 3:5 to Baptism of Regeneration and wrote that through Baptism both our past and future sins are forgiven.

By the washing of regeneration I have no doubt that he alludes, at least, to baptism, and even I will not object to have this passage expounded as relating to baptism; not that salvation is contained in the outward symbol of water, but because baptism tells to us the salvation obtained by Christ.

Now the Apostles are wont to draw an argument from the Sacraments, to prove that which us there exhibited under a figure, because it ought to be held by believers as a settled principle, that God does not sport with us by unmeaning figures, but inwardly accomplishes by his power what he exhibits by the outward sign; and therefore, baptism is fitly and truly said to be “the washing of regeneration”.

But here Paul addresses believers, in whom baptism is always efficacious, and in whom, therefore, it is properly connected with its truth and efficacy. But this mode of expression we are reminded that, if we do not wish to annihilate holy baptism, we must prove its efficacy by “newness of life” [Romans 6:4].

Calvin: Commentary on Timothy, Titus, Philemon (underlined emphasis added)

available online at www.ccel.org

Nor is it to be supposed that baptism is bestowed only with reference to the past, so that, in regard to new lapses into which we fall after baptism, we must seek new remedies of expiation in other so-called sacraments, just as if the power of baptism had become obsolete. We ought to consider that at whatever time we are baptised, we are washed and purified once for the whole of life. Wherefore, as often as we fall, we must recall the remembrance of our baptism, and thus fortify our minds, so as to feel certain and secure of the remission of sins. For though, when once administered, it seems to have passed, it is not abolished by subsequent sins.

Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.15.3 (underlined emphasis added)

available online at www.ccel.org

However, both Luther[xv] and Calvin[xvi]. denied that Baptism erases Original Sin. 

Every one of us commits sins from time to time, both deadly (mortal) and non-deadly ones (1 John 5:16-17), after becoming believers in Christ and after being baptized.  We lose sanctifying grace (our righteous state) we receive at our Baptism through mortal sin.  Moved by actual grace from God we freely repent to obtain God’s forgiveness.  That is the reason why Christ gave the authority to forgive sins to the Church (John 20:21-23) in the form of Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance, through which we regain our sanctifying grace and put us back in righteous state.  This process is repeated through-out our sanctification. 

In 1519 Luther still accepted three sacraments when he wrote The Sacrament of Penance, the Holy and Blessed Sacrament of Baptism and the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ and the Brotherhoods.   One year later, he wrote The Babylonian Captivity of the Church where he accepted only Baptism and Eucharist.   Following Luther, some Protestant churches recognize only those two sacraments.  The others believe that Baptism is only public declaration of one’s faith in Christ (nowhere stated in Scripture) while the Eucharist, or mostly known to them as Lord’s Supper, if they still practise it, is only memorial meal.  Both have nothing to do with grace or they are no longer sacraments but ordinances.


[i]       https://www.ligonier.org/blog/five-solas/

[ii]       Michael Reeves is President and Professor of Theology at Union School of Theology (ust.ac.uk)

[iii]      Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (sbts.edu), and editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology

[iv]      Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2008

[v]       we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God

Council of Trent: Decrees on Justification, Chapter VIII

[vi]      Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1989

[vii]    we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.

 Calvin, J.: Institutes of Christian Religion 3.11.2

[viii]    When we say that we are justified by faith, we are saying nothing else than that for the sake of the Son of God we receive remission of sins and are accounted as righteous.

Melanchthon, P.: The Chief Theological Topics (Loci Praecipui Theologici), page 157

cited in Wellum, S.: Faith Alone, page 257

Philip Melanchthon (1497 –1560) or Philipp Schwartzerd, was a German Reformer who worked together with Martin Luther.  He was the first Protestant systematic theologian.

[ix]      Luther, M.: Lectures on Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews.  English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 29, page 228

[x]      Roman Catholic theology distinguishes venial sins and mortal sins, with mortal sins being more egregious.

Sproul, R.C.: Are We Together, page 32

      Robert Charles Sproul (1939 – 2017) was respected Reformed theologian and pastor.  He was the founder of Ligonier Ministry (www.ligonier.org) and served as executive editor of Tabletalk magazine published by Ligonier Ministry.

[xi]      Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1129

[xii]      Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1992

[xiii]     The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation [John 3:5] He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them [Matthew 28:19-20]. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament {Mark 16:16]. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ‘reborn of water and the Spirit’. God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1257

[xiv]     Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1213

        Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature’, an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature, [2 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Peter 1:4] member of Christ and co-heir with him [Romans 8:17, 1 Corinthians 6:15, 12:17] and the temple of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 6:19].

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1265

[xv]      All the universities have taught in this manner and the books of these universities are full of this idea that baptism removes original sin. Therefore, no sin at all remains in the baptized. But sins which men do after baptism do not extend to the blood of Christ, but actual sins are characteristic of human nature and we ought to remove them and we ought to make satisfaction for them. Original sin has been destroyed in baptism. Therefore, it is necessary that we make satisfaction for actual sins. This is a popish doctrine and an invention of those who share his opinion that many ways of reconciling God have been discovered. We see that this argument is the fountain and source of all monasteries, masses, pilgrimages, invocation of the saints, and similar devices by which men try to make satisfaction for sins. We, however, declare with Augustine, who alone preserved this teaching for us, that original sin is removed not so that it does not exist, but so that it is not imputed.

English translation from Luther: The Disputation Concerning Justification

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 34, page 180

[xvi]     It is now clear how false the doctrine is which some long ago taught, and others still persist in, that by baptism we are exempted and set free from original sin, and from the corruption which was propagated by Adam to all his posterity, and that we are restored to the same righteousness and purity of nature which Adam would have had if he had maintained the integrity in which he was created.

Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.15.10

available at www.ccel.org

May 25, 2021 / vivator

A Catholic Response of Five Sola’s of Reformation: Sola Fide

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The five sola’s (Latin word that means alone or only) are the battle cries of 16th century Reformers against the Catholic Church.  Those five may be expressed in one sentence as: We are saved by grace alone [sola gratia], through faith alone [sola fide], in Christ alone [solus Christus or solo Christo], as revealed in Scripture alone [sola scriptura], to the glory of God alone [soli Deo gloria][i].  We now examine sola fide or (by) faith alone.

We begin by first examining what Protestants mean with sola fide.  Sola fide is the response of the question: How can a person be right with God?[ii]  The answer, given by Protestants, is by faith (in Christ) alone.   Reformed scholar Piper[iii] elaborates further what they mean with by faith alone: But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He [Schreiner] says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone.  Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience—imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, but … a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.”[iv] (underlined emphasis added)

By faith alone, as described above, is applied to Justification. Salvation, on the other hand, is by faith that is not alone – it must produce works of obedience as necessary evidence and fruit of justification.  What Piper wrote may sound controversial to some Protestants and “Bible only” Christians, but he simply reaffirmed similar statement Luther made in 1536:

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 165

What is then Justification?  Why does it have something to do with “being right with God”?  In Greek, in which all New Testament books were written, the word for justification is dikaiwsiV (dikaiosis) and that of righteousness is dikaiosune (dikaiosune).  Both words are related to Greek verb dikaiwo (dikaio), translated as “to justify” and to Greek adjective dikaioV (dikaios), which means righteous or just.  All of them have stem dike (dike) that means justice.  Dike is goddess of justice in Greek mythology. 

In Hebrews, the word for righteous is צַדִּיק[v] (tsadeek); “to justify” is צָדַק (tsadak).  Justice in Hebrew is צֶדֶק (tsedek) while righteousness is צְדָקָה (tsedaqah).  The Aramaic equivalent of tsedaqah is צִדְקָה (tsidqa), which appears in Daniel 4:27.  Both tsedaqah and tsidqa may mean almsgiving or acts of charity as in Tobit 12:9 (Tobit, written in Aramaic, is not considered inspired by Protestants).  In Judaism giving alms is not a matter of generosity, but it is related to justice[vi].  Synagogues and some Jewish homes have tsedaqah boxes where they can drop money for almsgiving. 

According to both Old and New Testaments, justification has something to do with righteousness and with justice.  The question on How can a person be right with God can be expressed as How does God justify us, which entitles us to enter heaven?  The dispute between the Reformers and the Catholic Church during Reformation is on the meaning of the verb “to justify”.  Does it mean “to make righteous”, as taught by the Catholic Church, or, as according to the Reformers, does it mean “to declare righteous”?  The common charge Protestants make against Catholics is the latter believe in justification by faith plus works. 

The Catholic Church dogmatically declared Catholic teaching on Justification at sixth session of Council of Trent on 13 January 1547.   The council did not declare a new teaching but affirmed that has been taught in the past.  Even Protestant’s scholars would admit that before Reformation, following Augustine[vii], to justify meant to make righteous[viii].  According to Reformed scholar Sproul, the use of Latin, not Greek, in the Catholic Church was the reason why to justify meant to make righteous.[ix]   However, Sproul ignored the fact that the Eastern Orthodox Church, who continue using Greek to this day, does not agree with the Reformers on justification either.  At their Jerusalem synod in 1672, they rejected Reformers’ teaching of faith alone justification.[x]

Quoting from McGrath[xi], Schreiner listed three main features of Protestant doctrine of justification[xii]:

  1. Justification is forensic rather than transformative, denoting a change in status rather than change in nature.
  2. Justification is distinguished from sanctification.  The former refers to the declaration that one stands in the right before God, while the latter denotes the ongoing renewal and transformation in one’s life.
  3. Justification denotes alien (external) righteousness, which means that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer.  Believers aren’t righteous because of a righteousness inherent to them. 

Another Reformed scholar, Timothy George[xiii], identified three elements in Luther’s theology, all closely connected: (1) imputation; (2) faith-alone justifies; and (3) believers are justified and at the same time sinners.[xiv]

Those three, either of McGrath or of George, are directly opposing Catholic teaching on justification, listed below in the same order as those of McGrath:

  1. Justification is transformative or intrinsic, it changes our state.  Council of Trent declared that Justification is a 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[xv].
  2. Because it is transformative, justification that starts with faith[xvi] also includes remission of sins, sanctification and renewal of inner man[xvii]
  3. Through (transformative) justification we are made righteous.  We become righteous, our righteousness comes from God and is infused in us[xviii]

In our justification, are we made righteous by God or are we declared righteous by Him?

In Romans 5:19 Paul wrote (underlined emphasis added): For as by one man’s {Adam] disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s [Christ] obedience many will be made righteous.   Schreiner tried to tune down this verse by stating “The verb translated “made” (kathistēmi) can be translated in a number of ways, but it especially bears the meaning “appoint” (cf. Matt 24:45; Luke 12:14; Acts 6:3; Titus 1:7; Heb 7:1, 28), which actually fits nicely with a forensic understanding of the verse”.[xix]   However when we are made righteous, we are also declared as righteous in true sense.  On the other hand, according to the Reformers, we are declared as righteous, while in fact we remain sinners.  Because the verb justify is related to justice, even Catholics believe in forensic aspect of justification.   When we die we will be judged (Hebrews 9:27). – we will be declared righteous because we are made righteous.

Christ said in Matthew 25:46: the righteous shall go to eternal life.  They are not declared righteous by faith alone, but they are righteous because they do acts (Matthew 25:35-36) that make them righteous as defined in 1 John 3:7: He who does what is right is righteous.  In the Old Testament Psalms 15:1-2 says (underlined emphasis added): O Lord, who shall sojourn in thy tent? Who shall dwell on thy holy hill?  He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart.  Proverbs 10:2 says that righteousness delivers from death.

Faith is counted or reckoned (passive form of Greek verb logizomai) as righteousness (Romans 4:3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 22, 23, 24; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23).  Certainly, to have faith in Christ is one of acts that makes us righteous as mentioned in 1 John 3:7.  Thus Catholics understand that Abraham became righteous by his faith (Genesis 15:6).  Those verses do not say he is counted as righteous or the righteousness that he had through faith is not his.  Why would Paul, in the same epistle, promoted external righteousness imputed on Abraham and yet, at the same time wrote that through Christ we are made righteous (Romans 5:19)?

According to the Reformers Abraham was declared righteous by his faith.  Yet Abraham had faith in God for the first time not in Genesis 15:6. According to Hebrews 11:8, Abraham already had faith when he was called by God to go out to a place that will be his inheritance (Genesis 12:1-8).

Is justification completed by faith alone?

Reformed systematic theologian Berkhof wrote (underlined emphasis added): Justification takes place once for all. It is not repeated, neither is it a process; it is complete at once and for all time.[xx]  This is the reason why the Reformers and Protestants insist that justification is by faith alone and distinguish sanctification from it, although these two must come together.   “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.”, wrote John Calvin[xxi].

The phrase “justified by faith” appear four times in New Testament: Romans 3:28, 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 3:24.   New Testament was written in Greek and Greek tenses are not the same with those of English.  Justified in Romans 3:28 is written in Greek passive present tense while the rest are in Greek passive aorist tense.  Both tenses do not indicate a completed justification by faith.  Present tense in Greek implies an action that occurs, usually in present time; it could be an on-going action or not[xxii], while aorist tense indicates an action took place, usually in the past, without any information whether it is on-going or completed[xxiii].  Greek has perfect tense, which precisely indicate a completed action in the past with continuing results to the present.[xxiv]   If New Testament is intended to teach justification by faith alone, then the Holy Spirit would inspire Paul to use this perfect tense in those four occurrences, but he did not. 

Protestants often accuse the Catholic Church of conflating sanctification with justification because they understand justification as (one time) declaration and is therefore by faith alone.  As justification in Catholicism includes sanctification Protestants also accuse Catholics of believing in justification by faith plus works.  However, as stated by Piper and quoted in the beginning of this article, their sanctification, though separated from justification, requires works as necessary evidence of their faith alone justification.  In other words, their salvation is by faith that is not alone, but must includes work.  Not all Protestants would agree with what Piper wrote.  The Catholic Church does not teach justification by faith plus works, but our justification comes from grace.[xxv]   Our ability to become righteous, either by believing in Christ or by doing what is right, comes from and is produced by grace through Christ.  Apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

 “Was Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” (James 2:21). According to the Reformers what Abraham did is supposed to take place in his sanctification, but in James 2:21 the verb to justify, not to sanctify, is applied.   This also shows that justification is not completed by faith alone, but is a process that includes sanctification.  Sanctification is not mentioned in Romans 8:28, unless it is considered as part of justification.  In 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul placed justified after sanctified, indicating that we are justified after being sanctified. 

Is righteousness imputed on us or is it infused in us?

According to the Reformers we are righteous (externally), based on alien righteousness of Christ imputed on, and at the same time we are sinners.  Luther expressed this in Latin as simul iustus et peccator or justified and sinner at the same time[xxvi].  He also taught double imputation when he wrote: His righteousness is yours; your sin is His.[xxvii]  However Scripture denies both single or double imputation in Ezekiel 18:20: The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Why the Reformers and Protestants rely on alien/external righteousness of Christ is because they believe that we can never meet righteousness standard required by God – we always fall short through sinning. The only solution is accepting righteousness of Christ imputed on us.   When we die, instead of looking at our sins, God will look at righteousness of Christ and based on this righteousness He let us enter heaven.  Scriptural verses quoted to support this belief: no one is righteous (Romans 3:10).  God looks down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any that are wise, that seek after God.  They have all fallen away; they are all alike depraved; there is none that does good, no, not one (Psalms 53: 2-3). Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for no man living is righteous before thee (Psalms 143:2).  Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Who can say, “I have made my heart clean; I am pure from sin”? (Proverbs 20:9). Our iniquities (sins) make us unable to meet God’s standard: If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? (Psalms 130:3).

While Scripture says no one is righteous, at the same time it also refers Noah, Daniel, Job (Ezekiel 14:14), Joseph (Matthew 1:19), Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:6), Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:10), Abel (Hebrews 11:4) and even Lot (2 Peter 2:7) as righteous persons.  The existence of righteous persons, without naming them is shown in Psalms 5:12, 34:15, Matthew 5:45, 1 Peter 3:12 and many other verses. Since Scripture cannot contradict itself the best explanation is no one can be righteous by himself, his righteousness must come from God.  Becoming righteous is therefore possible by grace of God infused in us.

Being a righteous person is not being a sinless one.  Neither does Scripture say we can be righteous (externally) and sinner at the same time, as taught by Luther.  Scripture says: “The righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins” (Ezekiel 33:12) and “a righteous man falls seven times and rises again” (Proverbs 24:16).  A righteous person will sin from time to time.  When a righteous person commits iniquity, he will die, and all his past righteousness will be forgotten (Ezekiel 18:24).   What he needs to do is repenting. Scripture says when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness, he will surely live (Ezekiel 18:27-28) – all his past wickedness will be forgotten, or he will be in righteous state as Righteousness delivers from death (Proverbs 10:2).  We can repent after being moved by and is only possible by grace.  That is why Christ gave the authority to forgive sins to the Church (John 20:21-23).


[i]       https://www.ligonier.org/blog/five-solas/

[ii]       Schreiner, T.: Faith Alone, page 15.

        Thomas Schreiner (born 1954) is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology and Associate Dean of the School of Theology of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

[iii]      John Piper (born 1946) is founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary and Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

[iv]      Piper, J.: Foreword of Schreiner, T.: Faith Alone, page 11.

[v]       Words in Hebrew are read from right to left.

[vi]      According to the Mosaic conception, wealth is a loan from God, and the poor have a certain claim on the possessions of the rich; while the rich are positively enjoined to share God’s bounties with the poor.

1906 Jewish Encyclopedia (http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1295-alms)

[vii]     Augustine (354 – 430), was bishop of Hippo in North Africa.  He is one of 36 Doctors of the Catholic Church and is mostly known as Doctor of Grace for his profound teaching on Grace, adopted by the Catholic Church.

[viii]     Before we can understand discussions about justification during the Reformation, we should make a few observations about the medieval view of justification that was widely understood and accepted at the time. It is safe to say that Augustine’s definition of justification had triumphed in the church. All understood justification to mean that believers are made righteous.

Schreiner, T.: Faith Alone, page 38

Before Luther, the standard Augustinian position on justification stressed intrinsic justification.  Intrinsic justification argues that the believer is made righteous by God’s grace, as compared to extrinsic justification, by which a sinner is forensically declared righteous.

Geisler, N. and MacKenzie, R.E.: Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, page 222

Norman Leo Geisler (1932 – 2019) was Systematic Theologian and philosopher, cofounder of Veritas International University in California and Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina, USA.

Ralph E. MacKenzie is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary, Arden Hills, Minnesota.

[ix]      The early Latin fathers, who studied Scriptures by means of the Vulgate (the fourth-century Latin translation of the Bible) rather than the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and the Greek New Testament, developed their doctrine of justification based on their understanding of the legal system of the Roman empire.  In time, the doctrine of justification came to address the question of how an unrighteous person, a fallen sinner, can be made righteous.

Sproul, R.C.: Are We Together, page 30

        Robert Charles Sproul (1939 – 2017) was respected Reformed theologian and pastor.  He was the founder of Ligonier Ministry (www.ligonier.org) and served as executive editor of Tabletalk magazine published by Ligonier Ministry.

[x]       We believe a man to be not simply justified through faith alone, but through faith which works through love, that is to say, through faith and works.  But [the idea] that faith can fulfill the function of a hand that lays hold on the righteousness which is in Christ, and then apply it unto us for salvation, we know to be far from all Orthodoxy.

Decree 13

Source: www.crivoice.org

[xi]      Alister Edgar McGrath (born 1953) is theologian, Christian apologist and (Anglican) priest.  He holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion, a fellow of Harris Manchester College at the University of Oxford, UK, and Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London, UK.  One of his works is Iustitia Dei (Justification of God), published by Cambridge University Press, 1998.  Iustitia Dei is history of Christian doctrine of justification.

[xii]      Schreiner, T.: Faith Alone, page 39.

[xiii]    Timothy George (born 1950) is the founding dean of Beeson Divinity School and distinguished professor of Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama, USA. He is a life advisory trustee of Wheaton College, Illinois, USA.

[xiv]     cited in Schreiner: Faith Alone, page 43.

[xv]      Council of Trent: Decrees on Justification, Chapter IV


[xvi]    we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God

Council of Trent: Decrees on Justification, Chapter VIII

[xvii]    This disposition, or preparation, is followed by Justification itself, which is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace, and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just [righteous], and of an enemy a friend, that so he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting

Council of Trent: Decrees on Justification, Chapter VII

[xviii]   Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or ‘justice’) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to divine will is granted us.

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1991

[xix]     Schreiner, T.: Faith Alone, page 175.

[xx]      Berkhof, L.: Systematic Theology, page 513

Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) was one of distinguished Reformed theologians.  He taught at Calvin Theological Seminary from 1906 and served as its president from 1931 – 1944.

[xxi]     Calvin, J.: Institutes of Christian Religion 3.11.6

[xxii]    Greek verbs have both aspect and tense – the former indicates what type of action the verb describes.  There are three aspects: completed, undefined and on-going (or continuous).    The aspect of Greek present tense is either on-going or undefined (Mounce, W.D.: Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, page 129). 

[xxiii]    The aorist indicates an undefined action usually occurring in the past.

        The aorist tense has often been mishandled by both scholars and preachers.  Aorist verbs too frequently are said to denote once-for-all action when the text has no such intention.

Mounce, W.D.: ibid, pages 198, 202 (underlined emphasis added)

Aorist verbs have undefined aspect, the writer or speaker does not tell us whether the action is completed or on-going.

[xxiv]    Greek perfect tense implies the action described by the verb is completed in the past whose effects are felt in the present (from speaker/writer point of view).

        The Greek perfect is one of the more interesting tenses and is often used to express great theological truths.  The Greek perfect describes an action that was brought to completion and whose effects are felt in the present.  Because it describes a completed action, by implication the action described by the perfect verb normally occurred in the past.

Mounce, W.D.: ibid, page 225 (underlined emphasis added)

[xxv]    Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1996

[xxvi]   Thus a Christian man is righteous and a sinner at the same time [in Latin simul iustus et peccator], holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God.

Luther: Lectures on Galatians

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 26, page 232

[xxvii]   Luther: Lectures on Galatians, Chapter 1-4.  English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 26, page 233.

May 18, 2021 / vivator

A Catholic response to Five Sola’s of Reformation: Sola Gratia

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The five sola’s (Latin word that means alone or only) are the battle cries of 16th century Reformers against the Catholic Church.  Those five may be expressed in one sentence as: We are saved by grace alone [sola gratia], through faith alone [sola fide], in Christ alone [solus Christus or solo Christo], as revealed in Scripture alone [sola scriptura], to the glory of God alone [soli Deo gloria][i].  We now examine sola gratia or (by) grace alone.

We start with definition of grace.  Whatever we receive from God, free and undeserving, is grace.  All Christians believe in this basic definition.   Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons (John 1:12, Romans 8:16), partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and of eternal life[ii].  Reformed scholar Trueman wrote “Grace as God’s unmerited favor finds practical expression as it changes believers into what God would have them be.”[iii]  Mercy, on the other hand, is what we do not receive from God that we truly deserve.  Even a Catholic would say that he goes to heaven by God’s grace, and he does not end up in hell because of His mercy.  

If salvation is by grace, then it is God who decides whom He wants to be saved or there is an Election (Predestination of the Elect).  There is Election in the teaching of the Catholic Church, although most Catholics are not aware.   Thus, Catholics do believe in salvation by grace.  We cannot have it both ways – if we play, even a partial or limited role, in our salvation, then (1) it is no longer by grace (Romans 11:6) and (2) there should not be Election in Catholic teaching, which is not the case.   If this is the case what is the real issue that divides the Catholic Church and the Reformers?  Why did they have the word “alone” or Latin “sola” before grace?  Those who follow Luther and Calvin accuse the Catholic Church of believing in salvation by grace plus merits.  Is this true or just a caricature of the teaching of the Catholic Church?

To better illustrate what the Reformers meant by sola gratia, consider one verse mostly cited by them to support sola gratia: No one can come to me [Christ] unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44).  Nowadays you can own a smart car.  If you do not want to walk to where it is parked, you can use an application in your cell phone to “draw” that car to you.  The application, representing grace, will start the engine and will make your car drive itself to where you are.   It neither needs that car’s consent nor cooperation, because even a smart car is a dead object.   That is how the Reformers, and their followers explain our state in responding to grace from God.  This is not a caricature of what they believe.  Reformed scholar Sproul wrote: By nature we are born into this world DOA, dead on arrival, spiritually although alive biologically.[iv]  “human beings are as passive as corpses in securing their own salvation from sin”, wrote Trueman[v].   What they believe is based on what Luther and Calvin wrote, yet those two Reformers did not share the same view either, as we will see.

According to Luther we do not have free will because our will is in captive/slave of the will of God or that of the devil. 

On the other hand in relation to God, or in matters pertaining to salvation or damnation, a man has no free choice, but is a captive, subject and slave either of the will of God or the will of Satan [devil].

Luther: The Bondage of the Will (underlined emphasis added)

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 70

He explained further what he meant by being slave or captive of the will of God or that of devil:

Thus the human will is placed between the two like a beast of burden.  If God rides it, it wills and goes where God wills, as the psalm says: “I am become as a beast [before thee] and I am always with thee” [Psalms 73:22].  If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it

ibid

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, pages 65-66

For if God is in us, Satan is absent, and only a good-will is present; if God is absent, Satan is present, and only an evil-will is in us.

ibid

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 112

Luther used the analogy of beast of burden to represent us.  We act according to who “rides” (control) us, God or Satan (the devil).  We do not have freedom even to choose who controls our actions.  Had there been cars in his time, then he could use cars as an analogy to represent us.  How any car “behaves” depends on who is behind steering wheel, a good driver or a drunken one.  Even a smart car can be hacked, and the hacker will control the car.  Any car, be it smart or “traditional” one, cannot choose its driver.

Because our will is in captive then our salvation, according to Luther, is the work of God alone from start to end.

In just the same way (our answer continues), before man is changed into a new creature of the Kingdom of the Spirit, he does nothing and attempts nothing to prepare himself for this renewal and this Kingdom, and when he has been recreated he does nothing and attempts nothing towardremaining in this Kingdom, but the Spirit alone does both of these things in us, recreating us without us and preserving us without our help in our recreated state, as also James says: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of his power, that we might be a beginning of his creature” [James 1:18]—speaking of the renewed creature.

              ibid

English translation from Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 243

Although he neither used nor introduced the term, Luther could be the first to teach monergism.  The word monergism comes from mono and ergon – prefix mono means single while Greek noun ergon means work.  Monergism teaches that in our salvation God works alone in us and it is the source of the word sola in sola gratia.

In contrast to what Luther believed regarding our will, John Calvin wrote:

But the question is asked whether freedom to choose good or evil does not naturally reside in man. He [Augustine] replies: “It must be acknowledged that we have free choice to do both evil and good. But in doing evil each one is free of righteousness and the slave of sin, while in doing good, no one can be free, unless he has first been set free by the Son of God [Augustine: Rebuke and Grace 1.2, NPNF[vi] 5:472]. So people are freed from evil by the grace of God aloneWithout this they do no good at all, whether by thinking, or by willing and loving, or by acting.  This means not only that when [grace] shows them they know what they should do, but that when it enables them they gladly do what they know [to be right]. [Augustine: ibid 2.3] And he then explains this more briefly. “The human will does not obtain grace through its freedom, but rather freedom through grace.”  [ibid 8.17, NPNF 5:478]

Calvin: The Bondage and Liberation of the Will, page 130

(underlined emphasis added)

English translation by G.I. Davies and edited by A.N.S. Lane

We can note the difference between Calvin and Luther.  Luther denied the existence of our freedom while Calvin wrote that (1) we have freedom to choose to do both evil and good (following Augustine) but (2) we can do the latter only after being set free by grace of God alone.  Before being set free, later referred as being regenerated, by grace alone, our will is only free to do evil.   Even the titles of what they wrote should tell us the difference.  That of Luther, in English, is “Bondage of the Will” while that of Calvin is “Bondage and Liberation of the Will”.  Our will is always in bondage/slavery, according to Luther, before and after regeneration (in Luther’s terminology: changed into a new creature).  Luther wrote “We are not masters of our actions, from beginning to end, but servants.”[vii]  That is why Luther taught monergism from start to end.  On the other hand, according to Calvin, only in regeneration, through which our will is set free, grace works alone in us.  After being set free or regenerated by grace alone, and while still controlled by grace, we can freely cooperate freely with grace.  We are no longer spiritually dead (Sproul’s) or passive corpse (Trueman’s).   Freely cooperation with grace is later known as synergism, from Greek prefix syn that means “together” and Greek noun ergon that means “work”.  Most of Reformed scholars follow this monergism (at regeneration) – synergism (after regeneration) concept[viii].  For scriptural support they cite Ephesians 2:1-5 and Colossians 2:13, that say “being dead through our trespasses”.  A dead person (a corpse) can give neither consent nor cooperation.  When God by grace regenerate him, grace obviously works alone.  But once he is made alive, he can freely cooperate with grace while still under grace. 

How do Catholics respond to monergistic regeneration taught by followers of Calvin?  The Greek word regeneration (paliggenesia) appears twice in New Testament (Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:5).  Both have nothing to do with regenerating spiritually dead persons.  Scripture says the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20).  We are dead in sins in the sense that our sins make us deserve hell – they do not make us spiritually dead.  Scripture also says: Righteousness delivers from death (Proverbs 10:2).  It is righteousness, not regeneration, that delivers us from death. 

In Catholic teaching everything in our salvation is synergistic.  Among Protestants, Arminian[ix] Protestants are also synergists.

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight

Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1993 (underlined emphasis added)

The above clause came from Trent council, convened to counter Reformation in 16th century AD.  It did not declare something new, but rewording of the decree made in Council of Orange in 529 AD, almost one thousand years before Luther nailed his 95 theses on 31 October 1517.

“The good will of God and of man.  Men do their own will, not God’s, when they do what displeases God; but when they do what they wish, in order to serve the divine will, even though willingly they do what they do, nevertheless, it is the will of Him by whom what they will is both prepared and ordered” 

Canon 23 of Orange Council[x] (underlined emphasis added)

The canons (decrees) of Council of Orange were based on what Augustine wrote on the existence of Original Sin and relation between grace and (our) freedom.  Augustine did not deny the existence of our free will but unless it is moved by grace, we can do nothing good with our (free) will.

Therefore, my dearly beloved, as we have now proved by our former testimonies from the Holy Scripture that there is in man free determination of will for living rightly and acting rightly; so now let us see what are the divine testimonies concerning the grace of God, without which we are not able to do any good thing.

Augustine: On Grace and Free Will. Chapter 7 (underlined emphasis added)

For complete text refer to http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf105.xix.iv.html

Did Augustine teach monergistic regeneration?  The following statement by Augustine should settle whether he was synergist or taught monergistic regeneration:

But God made you without you.  You didn’t, after all, give any consent to God making you.  How were you to consent, if you didn’t yet exist?  So while he made you without you, he doesn’t justify you without you.  So he made you without your knowing it, he justifies you with your willing consent to it.  Yet it’s he that does justifying (in case you should think it’s your justice, and go back to dead losses, the wastage and the muck), for you to be found in him [Christ] not having your own justice, which is from the law, but the justice through the faith of Christ, which is from God; justice from faith, to know him and the power of his resurrection, and a share in his sufferings [Philippians 3:9-10].  And that will be your power, your strength; a share in Christ’s sufferings will be your strength.

Augustine: Sermon 169.13 (underlined emphasis added)

English translation from: The Works of Saint Augustine: sermons III/5 (148-183), page 231

Is synergism scriptural?  The Greek verb sunergew (sunergeo), that means “to work together” and from where we have the English word “synergy”, appears five times in New Testament (Mark 16:20, Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 16:16, 2 Corinthians 6:1 and James 2:22).  The corresponding adjective sunergoV (sunergos), that means fellow or co-workers appears 13 times in New Testament.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9).  According to Scripture we have freedom to choose between good and evil (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).  Some verses that show the role of our freedom are: Return to me [God] …. and I will return to you (Zechariah 1:3); You will seek me [God] and find me; when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13); Draw near to God and he will draw near to you (James 4:8).  Catholics understand that we must be first moved and enabled by grace before we can freely return/seek/draw near to God.   But when we sin, we do it freely; God does not make us do so.

The reason why Reformed scholars accuse the Catholic Church of teaching salvation by grace plus merits is they confuse synergism with what is known as semi-pelagianism[xi].  In semi-pelagianism grace from God and our (free) will are two mutually exclusive and independent agents. God provides grace but it is up to us to cooperate with it or not.  There is no Election in semi-pelagianism, we are the one who make decision.  Synergism, on the other hand, teaches that our freedom is produced and depends on grace[xii].  This also came from Augustine who wrote “The human will does not obtain grace through its freedom, but rather freedom through grace.” (quoted by Calvin above).   There is Election in both synergism and monergism.

How God’s grace works in us while we remain free at the same time, is a mystery[xiii]. Until today there is no dogmatic (binding) declaration from the Catholic Church on this issue.  At present there are five views: Thomism, Augustianism, Molinism, Congruism and Syncretism[xiv].  


[i]       https://www.ligonier.org/blog/five-solas/

[ii]       Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1996

[iii]      Trueman, C. R.: Grace alone, page 45-46.

        Carl R. Trueman (born 1967) is Christian theologian and church historian.  He was Professor of Historical theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary until 2018.  He is now Professor at department of Biblical and Religious Studies of Grove City College, Pennsylvania, USA (www.gcc.edu).

[iv]      When we considered in an earlier study our condition of original sin, we used the biblical metaphors of death and slavery. By nature we are born into this world DOA, dead on arrival, spiritually although alive biologically.  We have no inclination whatsoever in our souls towards the things of God – no interest, no passion, no love. We are dead. Because we are spiritually dead, we are slaves to the sinful impulses and lusts that drive our behavior.

Sproul: Romans, St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 188-189

(underlined emphasis added)

Robert Charles Sproul (1939 – 2017) was respected and internationally renown Reformed theologian and pastor.  He was the founder of Ligonier Ministry (www.ligonier.org) and served as executive editor of Tabletalk magazine published by Ligonier Ministry.  Ligonier Ministry has YouTube channel where we can listen to many of his statement/speech.  Sproul was excellent in explain theological concepts in the way most of us, without any background in Theology or Religious Study, can understand.

[v]       Trueman, C. R.: Grace alone, page 40.

[vi]      NPNF (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers) is collection of (English translation of) the works of a number of early Christians (Church Fathers) who live during and after Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  They are available online at www.ccel.org.

[vii]     Thesis 39 of Disputation Against Scholastic Theology.  English translation from Luther’s Works Vol. 31, page 11.

[viii]    The act of grace which regenerates, operating within the spontaneous energies of the soul and changing their character, can neither be co-operated with nor resisted. But the instant the soul is regenerated it begins to co-operate with and sometimes, alas! also to resist subsequent gracious influences prevenient and co-operative.

Hodge, A.A.: Outlines of Theology, page 448-449 (underlined emphasis added)

Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823 – 1886) was Reformed theologian.  He was Principal of Princeton Seminary from 1878 to 1886, after his father, Charles Hodge (1797 to 1878) who held that position from 1851 to 1878.

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, L.: Systematic Theology, page 473 (underlined emphasis added)

Louis Berkhof (1873 – 1957) was one of distinguished Reformed theologians.  He taught at Calvin Theological Seminary from 1906 and served as its president from 1931 – 1944.

There is much confusion about the debate between monergism and synergism. When Augustinianism is defined as monergistic, one must remember that itis 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.

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

Sanctification is not monergistic.  It is synergistic. That is, it demands the cooperation of the regenerate believer.

Sproul: Chosen by God, page 131 (underlined emphasis added)

In contrast Horton denies synergistic sanctification.

It is vital to distinguish the new birth (or effectual calling) from conversion. In the former, we are passive: acted upon and within by the triune God through the gospel.  In the latter we are active (having been “activated” by grace), since we are raised from spiritual death to everlasting life.

Does this mean that we are monergists at the point of regeneration and justification, only to become synergists thereafter? Not at all, our faith and grateful obedience are not only responses to God’s gift but are produced in us from beginning to end by the same grace of God.

Horton, M.S.: For Calvinism, page 110, 111 (underlined emphasis added)

Michael Scott Horton (born 1964) is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California and Editor in chief of Modern Reformation magazine.

[ix]      The name Arminian came from Dutch Protestant theologian Jacob Harmensen or in Latin Jacobus Arminius (1560 – 1609).  For more information: http://evangelicalarminians.org

[x]       The council promulgated 25 canons followed by conclusion, and can be summarized as (1) the existence of original sin, 2), God foreordained no one to evil but we do evil through our own free-will, and (3) prevenient grace from God enables us to do good works, to obey His Commandments and to be saved while we remain free.  

Canon 1.    If anyone says that by the offense of Adam’s transgression not the whole man, that is according to body and soul, was changed for the worse, but believes that while the liberty of the soul endures without harm, the body only is exposed to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and resists the Scripture which says: “The soul, that has sinned, shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20]; and: “Do you not know that to whom you show yourselves servants to obey, you are the servants of him whom you obey?” [Romans 6:16]; and: Anyone is adjudged the slave of him by whom he is overcome [2 Peter 2:19].

Canon 2.    If anyone asserts that Adam’s transgression injured him alone and not his descendants, or declares that certainly death of the body only, which is the punishment of sin, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man into the whole human race, he will do an injustice to God, contradicting the Apostle who says: Through one man sin entered in the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed into all men, in whom all have sinned [Rom. 5:12].

Canon 3.    If anyone says that the grace of God can be bestowed by human invocation, but that the grace itself does not bring it to pass that it be invoked by us, he contradicts Isaias the Prophet, or the Apostle who says the same thing: “I was found by those who were not seeking me: I appeared openly to those, who did not ask me” [Romans 10:20; Isaiah 65:1].

Canon 4.    If anyone contends that in order that we may be cleansed from sin, God waits for our good will, but does not acknowledge that even the wish to be purged is produced in us through the infusion and operation of the Holy Spirit, he opposes the Holy Spirit Himself, who says through Solomon: “Good will is prepared by the Lord” [Proverbs 8:35: LXX], and the Apostle who beneficially says: “It is God, who worlds in us both to will and to accomplish according to his good will” [Philippians 2:13].

Canon 5.    If anyone says, that just as the increase [of faith] so also the beginning of faith and the very desire of credulity, by which we believe in Him who justifies the impious, and (by which) we arrive at the regeneration of holy baptism (is) not through the gift of grace, that is, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reforming our will from infidelity to faith, from impiety to piety, but is naturally in us, he is proved (to be) antagonistic to the doctrine of the Apostles, since blessed Paul says: We trust, that he who begins a good work in us, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus [Philippians 1:6]; and the following: It was given to you for Christ not only that you may believe in Him, but also, that you may suffer for Him [Philippians 1:29]; and: By grace you are made safe through faith, and this not of yourselves; for it is the gift of God [Ephesians 2:8]. For those who say that faith, by which we believe in God, is natural, declare that all those who are alien to the Church of Christ are in a measure faithful.

Canon. 6.   If anyone asserts that without the grace of God mercy is divinely given to us when we believe, will, desire, try, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, urge, but does not confess that through the infusion and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in us, it is brought about that we believe, wish, or are able to do all these things as we ought, and does not join either to human humility or obedience the help of grace, nor agree that it is the gift of His grace that we are obedient and humble, opposes the Apostle who says: What have you, that you have not received? [1 Corinthians 4:7]; and: By the grace of God I am that, which I am [1 Corinthians 15:10].

Canon. 7.   If anyone affirms that without the illumination and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,—who gives to all sweetness in consenting to and believing in the truth,—through the strength of nature he can think anything good which pertains to the salvation of eternal life, as he should, or choose, or consent to salvation, that is to the evangelical proclamation, he is deceived by the heretical spirit, not understanding the voice of God speaking in the Gospel: “Without me you can do nothing” [John 15:5]; and that of the Apostle: Not that we are fit to think everything by ourselves as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God [2 Corinthians 3:5].

Canon 8.    If anyone maintains that some by mercy, but others by free will, which it is evident has been vitiated in all who have been born of the transgression of the first man, are able to come to the grace of baptism, he is proved to be inconsistent with the trite faith. For he asserts that the free will of all was not weakened by the sin of the first man, or assuredly was injured in such a way, that nevertheless certain ones have the power without revelation of God to be able by themselves to seek the mystery of eternal salvation. How contrary this is, the Lord Himself proves, who testifies that not some, but no one can come to Him, except whom the Father draws [John 6:44], and just as he says to PETER: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but my Father, who is in heaven” [Matthew 16:17]; and the Apostle: No one can say Lord Jesus except in the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:3].

Canon 9.    “The assistance of God. It is a divine gift, both when we think rightly and when we restrain our feet from falsity and injustice; for as often as we do good, God operates in us and with us, that we may work”.

Canon 10. The assistance of God. The assistance of God ought to be implored always even by those who have been reborn and have been healed, that they may arrive at a good end, or may be able to continue in good work.

Canon 11. “The obligation of vows. No one would rightly vow anything to God, unless he accepts from Him what he vows” as it is written: And what we have received from your hand, we give to you [1 Chronicles 29:14].

Canon 12. “God loves such as us. God loves us, such as we shall be by His gilt, not such as we are by our own merit”.

Canon 13. The restoration of free will. Freedom of will weakened in the first man cannot be repaired except through the grace of baptism; “once it has been lost, it cannot be restored except by Him by whom it could be given. Thus Truth itself says: If the Son liberates you, then you will be truly free” [John 8:36].

Canon 14. “No wretched person is freed from misery, however small, unless he is first reached by the mercy of God”, just as the Psalmist says: Let thy mercy, Lord, speedily anticipate us [Psalms 78:8]; and also: “My God, His mercy will prevent me” [Psalms 58:11].

Canon 15. “From that which God fashioned, Adam was changed by his own iniquity, but for the worse. From that which injustice has effected, the faithful (man) is changed by the grace of God, but for the better. Therefore, the former change was (the result) of the first transgression, the latter according to the Psalmist is the change of the right hand of the Most High [Psalms 76:11]”.

Canon 16. “Let no one glory in that which he seems to possess, as if he did not receive (it), or think that he has received (it) for this reason, because the sign appeared from without, either that it might be read, or sounded that it might be heard. For thus says the Apostle: If justice (is) through the law, then Christ died for nothing [Galatians 2:21]: ascending on high he led captivity captive, he gave gifts to men [Ephesians 4:8; cf. Psalms 67:19], Whoever has, has from Him, but whoever denies that he has from Him, either does not truly possess, or that, which he possesses, is taken away from him [Matthew 25:29]”.

Canon 17. “Worldly desire creates the fortitude of the Gentiles, but the charity of God, which is diffused in our hearts, not by free will, which is from us, but by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us [Rom. 5:5] produces the fortitude of the Christians”.

Canon 18. “That grace is preceded by no merits. A reward is due to good works, if they are performed; but grace, which is not due, precedes, that they may be done”.

Canon 19. “That no one is saved except by God’s mercy. Even if human nature remained in that integrity in which it was formed, it would in no way save itself without the help of its Creator; therefore, since without the grace of God it cannot guard the health which it received, how without the grace of God will it be able to recover what it has lost?”.

Canon 20. “That without God man can do no good. God does many good things in man, which man does not do; indeed man can do no good that God does not expect that man do”.

Canon 21. “Nature and grace. Just as the Apostle most truly says to those, who, wishing to be justified in the law, have fallen even from grace: If justice is from the law, then Christ died in vain [Galatians 2:21]; so it is most truly said to those who think that grace, which the faith of Christ commends and obtains, is nature: If justice is through nature, then Christ died in vain. For the law was already here, and it did not justify; nature, too, was already present, and it did not justify. Therefore, Christ did not die in vain, that the law also might be fulfilled through Him, who said: I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill (it) [Matthew 5:17], and in order that nature ruined by Adam, might be repaired by Him, who said: He came to seek and to save that which had been lost [Luke 19:10]”.

Canon 22. “Those things which are peculiar to men. No one has anything of his own except lying and sin. But if man has any truth and justice, it is from that fountain for which we ought to thirst in this desert, that bedewed by some drops of water from it, we may not falter on the way”.

Canon 23. “The good will of God and of man. Men do their own will, not God’s, when they do what displeases God; but when they do what they wish, in order to serve the divine will, even though willingly they do what they do, nevertheless, it is the will of Him by whom what they will is both prepared and ordered”.

Canon 24. “The branches of the vine. Thus there are branches in the vine, not that they may bestow anything upon the vine, but that they may receive from it the means by which they may live; so truly the vine is in the branches, that it may furnish vital nourishment to these, not take it from them. And by this it is an advantage to the disciples, not to Christ, that each have Christ abiding in him, and that each abide in Christ. For if the branch is cut off, another can sprout forth from the living root; but that which has been cut off, cannot live without the root [John 15:5 ff.]”.

Canon 25. “The love with which we love God. Truly to love God is a gift of God. He Himself has granted that He be loved, who though not loved loves. Although we were displeasing we were loved, so that there might be produced in us [something] by which we might please. For the Spirit whom we love together with the Father and the Son pours forth the charity [of the Father and the Son] in our hearts [Romans 5:5]”.

And thus according to the statements of the Holy Scriptures written above, or the explanations of the ancient Fathers, God being propitious, we ought to proclaim and to believe that through the sin of the first man free will was so changed and so weakened that afterwards no one could either love God as he ought, or believe in God, or perform what is good on account of God, unless the grace of divine mercy reached him first. Therefore, we believe that in the [case of] the just Abel, and Noe, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the multitude of the ancient saints that illustrious faith which the Apostle Paul proclaims in their praise [Heb. 11], was conferred not by the good of nature, which had been given before in [the case of] Adam, but through the grace of God. Even after the coming of the Lord we know and likewise believe that this grace was not held in the free will of all who desired to be baptized, but was bestowed by the bounty of Christ, according to what has already been said often, and Paul the Apostle declares: It has been given to you for Christ, not only, that you may believe in him, but also that you may suffer for him [Philippians 1:29]; and this: God, who has begun a good work in you, will perfect it even to the day of our Lord [Philippians 1:6]; and this: By grace you are made safe through faith, and this not of yourselves: for it is the gift of God [Ephesians 2:8]; and that which the Apostle says about himself: I have obtained mercy, that I may be faithful [1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Timothy 1:13]; he did not say: “because I was,” but: “that I may be.” And that: What have you, that you have not received? [1 Corinthians 4:7]. And that: Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights [James 1:17]. And that: No one has anything, except it has been given him from above [John 3:27]. Innumerable are the testimonies of the Sacred Scriptures which can be brought forward to prove grace, but they are passed over out of a desire for brevity; also because, in truth, more [proofs] will not profit those for whom a few do not suffice.

According to the Catholic faith we believe this also, that after grace has been received through baptism, all the baptized with the help and cooperation of Christ can and ought to fulfill what pertains to the salvation of the soul, if they will labor faithfully. We not only do not believe that some have been truly predestined to evil by divine power, but also with every execration we pronounce anathema upon those, if there are [any such], who wish to believe so great an evil. This, too, we profess and believe unto salvation, that in every good work we do not begin, and afterwards are helped by the mercy of God, but He Himself, with no preceding good services [on our part], previously inspires us with faith and love of Him, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacraments of baptism, and after baptism with His help be able to perform those [acts] which are pleasing to Him. So very clearly we should believe that the faith—so admirable—both of that famous thief, whom the Lord restored to his native land of paradise [Luke 23:43], and of Cornelius the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord was sent [Acts 10:3], and of Zacchaeus, who deserved to receive the Lord Himself [Luke 19:6], was not from nature, but a gift of God’s bounty.

Denzinger: The sources of Catholic Dogma (Enchiridion Symbolorum), 30th edition, pages 75-81

English translation by Roy J. Deferrrari

Enchiridion Symbolorum is handbook or compendium containing collection of creeds, chief decrees and definitions of councils and of past popes, each given a number with prefix Denz or Dz or DS (Denzinger – Schönmetzer).  First published in 1854 and continuously extended.  Heinrich Joseph Dominicus Denzinger (1819 – 1883) was one of the leading Catholic German theologians in his time.

[xi]     This, of course, also points to Arminius’s synergism: salvation becomes a matter of the individual cooperating with God’s grace in a manner in which the individual always has a decisive role.

Trueman, C. R.: Grace alone, page 150.

[xii]    So it remains true that grace is not efficacious because free will consents, but conversely the free will consents because grace efficaciously premoves it to the willing and performance of a good act.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Controversies on Grace: Thomism (underlined emphasis added)

For it is not the will which by its free consent determines the power of grace, but conversely it is grace which makes the free good act possible, prepares for it and co-operates in its execution.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Controversies on Grace: Molinism (underlined emphasis added)

[xiii]    The way in which the fact of man’s free choice is reconciled with fundamental Christian truth of his total dependence on the grace of God is, ultimately, a mystery. The Catholic Church has always believed and taught both truths while its theologians have full liberty to attempt to explain their compatibility.

New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, page 93: Free Will and Grace

[xiv]     Dominican Banez (died in 1604) formulated Thomism teaching on relation between grace and free-will.  That of Augustinian was developed by Noris (died in 1704) and Berti (died in 1766) and that of Molinism by Luis de Molina(1535 – 1600).  Extension of Molinism, known as Congruism, was developed by Suarez (died in 1617), St. Robert Bellarmine (died in 1621) and Jesuit General Aquaviva (died in 1613).  Other than Thomism, Augustinianism, Molinism and Congruism, that of Ysambert (died in 1642), Habert (died in 1668), Tournely (died in 1729) and St. Alphonsus of Liguori (died in 1787) syncretizes all previous four and is therefore known as Syncretism.  For more detail of all those five:

Ludwig Ott: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pages 248-249

Catholic encyclopedia at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06710a.htm