Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eternal Security Debate - Negative Opening Essay

Eternal Security Debate

Debate Resolution:
Do the Gospels Teach that Salvation Can Be Lost?

Negavie Opening Essay
by Vocab (LINK)

My Key Assumptions
Before I begin discussing the question of do the gospels teach that salvation can be lost, it is important to make known some key issues which under gird the position that no truly justified person can be lost:
  1. God-breathed Scripture is the Christian’s ultimate authority
  2. The correct interpretation of any given scripture can not result in any real contradictions with the correct interpretation of another scripture 
  3. It is necessary to interpret less explicit passages in light of more explicit passages
  4. Scripture uniformly teachers us that Jesus alone is the Author and Finisher of our faith
  5. Realizing that it is God whom preserves those whom he elects must result in an increase in the Christian’s hope, peace, and a never-ending desire to please our Savior

Monday, December 27, 2010

Eternal Security Debate - Affirmative Opening Essay

Eternal Security Debate

Debate Resolution:
Do the Gospels Teach that Salvation Can Be Lost?

Affirmative Opening Essay
by Nick

Among the various heresies that arose at the time of the Reformation, one of the most notable was the doctrine of “Eternal Security” - the teaching that the Christian cannot lose his salvation. Since this debate is focused only on whether the Four Gospels teach salvation can be lost, the historicity or other Scriptural testimony of the doctrine will not be considered.

Eternal Security Debate - Do the Gospels Teach Salvation can be Lost?

Eternal Security Debate:
Do the Gospels Teach Salvation can be Lost?

Affirming Resolution: Nick
Denying Resolution: Vocab (Blog link)

  • Opening Essay - Due Monday Dec 27
  • Rebuttal Essay - Due Monday Jan 3
  • 5 CrossEx Questions - Due Thursday Jan 6 (3 days later)
  • 5 CrossEx Answers - Due Monday Jan 10 (4 days later)
  • Concluding Essays - Due Monday Jan 17
Essays are 2,000 words each. Only the Four Gospels will be examined. A one-week grace period is allowed, if needed. Essays will be posted publicly, comments closed until the last essay, and the opponent's essay will be linked to.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Did Christ Fulfill the Law in our Place?

A common but very serious theological error is the Protestant notion that Jesus fulfilled the Law in our place. This error is of a two fold nature: first, conflating and confusing the two notions of "fulfill" and "obey all the commandments perfectly" as if they were synonymous, and second, not recognizing Christians are called to fulfill the law and that the Bible never teaches Jesus "obeyed all the commandments" in our place.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Are Catholics Interpreting Scripture without Magisterial Authorization?

There is a frequent charge by Protestants that whenever a Catholic presents Scriptural evidence for any particular doctrine, rather than engage the passage in question and interpretation of it, the Protestant simply responds by saying something to the effect, "is that your private interpretation, or did the Magisterium infallibly interpret this verse for you?" The intent is to neutralize the Catholic argument by re-directing the issue onto that of infallibility.

This Protestant "response" is simply misguided. It fails to distinguish and understand the Catholic approach to Scripture and the Catholic objection to the Protestant error known commonly as "private interpretation." The truth is, both Catholics and Protestants are guided by a teaching traditionally called the Analogy of Faith (the classical meaning of the term 'analogy' is 'proportion' or 'rule'). The Analogy of Faith is the teaching that all theological interpretation must be done in harmony with the Church's defined doctrines. This means that the Church doesn't need to infallibly interpret every single passage of Scripture, but rather only needs to set up certain 'parameters' (i.e. dogmas) from which to read Scripture in light of. One of the preeminent examples - which both Catholics and Protestants would readily agree upon - of the Analogy being used is the quote from St John's Gospel where Jesus says, "The Father is greater than I." Knowing that the Church teaches Christ is a Divine Person with a Divine and human nature, the Analogy of Faith tells us that we cannot interpret Jesus' saying in such a way as to contradict that dogma.

The point of real divergence is that Protestants don't have a definite way of establishing dogma, where as the Catholics do (via the Magisterium). The result is that Protestants have less definite 'parameters' to operate within, leading to widely divergent interpretations of Scripture. That said, the Protestant Dogma of Sola Fide (Justification by Faith Alone) is the most important unique 'parameter' when it comes to Protestants interpreting Scripture. A good example of a Protestant using their own Analogy is when they approach James 2:24, in which the Protestant knows they must interpret this passage so as to not contradict Sola Fide.

Back to the original point: when a Catholic presents a text of Scripture to demonstrate or prove a given concept or teaching, they need not have a specific Magisterial interpretation of that verse, since the Church allows doctrines to be demonstrated or defended in any legitimate manner - particularly by applying the Analogy of Faith.

The issue of infallibility (i.e. authoritative interpretation) comes into play when defining the dogmas in the first place. A classic example of the need for authoritative interpretation (aka infallibility) is when examining the Biblical phrase "This is My Body." While the phrase is perfectly intelligible, what is not "clear" is whether this is to be taken literally, figuratively, or somewhere in-between. While many modern day Protestants would say the actual interpretation is ultimately "non-essential" to salvation and thus one is free to hold any view, historically Protestants have had bitter disputes over how to view this saying. Generally, the Anglicans and Lutherans hold to a mostly literal view, the Calvinists hold to a view between literal and figurative, and the Baptists hold to a mostly figurative view. Since none of these views directly contradict Sola Fide, the Analogy doesn't help one way or the other, and ultimately an authoritative interpretation (by a Magisterium) is necessary to settle the dispute.

At this point, only the Catholic position makes sense, since the Catholic position openly affirms the existence and necessity of a Magisterium. If Sola Scriptura were true, then Scripture alone would have been clear enough to settle the dispute. As it stands, Scripture is not formally sufficient, as the "This is My Body" example plainly demonstrates.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Council of Nicæa Proves Papacy

The Papacy is one of the most decisive (and divisive) issues in Christendom, particularly in determining whether or not the Catholic Church is the One True Church. While much can be said as far as the Scriptural support goes, the testimony of Tradition is just as powerful in this regard, most notably the testimony of the early Ecumenical Councils.

At this point many Eastern Orthodox and Protestants would object, saying that the Councils actually suggest the opposite, namely that the Bishop of Rome did not have the authority Catholics claim. One of the leading examples appealed to is the 6th Canon of the Council of Nicaea, which says (quoting only the most relevant portion):
The ancient customs of Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis shall be maintained, according to which the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these places since a similar custom exists with reference to the bishop of Rome. Similarly in Antioch and the other provinces the prerogatives of the churches are to be preserved.
Now there is some slightly different translations of certain terms of this canon, but this rendering is generally accepted. Reading this canon for the first time, many get the impression the Bishop of Rome is simply one bishop among others with no unique authority, directly undermining the notion of Papal Supremacy. This is the common take on this passage by Eastern Orthodox and Protestants.

The problem the Protestant is in is that even if their rendering were correct, the fact remains that this canon clearly teaches the Bishop of Rome has some high ranking authority, with the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch on some sort of equal footing. In other words, the early Church (as testified by this most important Council) was clearly one of a hierarchy of bishops, including very high ranking bishops - something totally incompatible with Protestantism. The only thing the Protestant can do is to ignore this Council and embrace an inconsistency of accepting the Council as orthodox Christianity but ignoring all the history and details of the Council (including the canons). This is indeed why many Protestants have no problem brushing off Nicaea or any other Council in favor of "Scripture Alone" (i.e. as soon as a "difficulty" arises, any part of any Council can be dispensed with).

But there is yet another detail here that is plain upon even a surface reading, and that is that this is a custom/tradition. Now if Nicaea took place in 325AD, it is no leap of faith to suggest this custom/tradition extended back at least 2-3 generations of Christians (if not further, as Catholics and Eastern Orthodox would suggest), meaning this custom goes back easily 75-100 years (again, if not further, which there's no reason to deny). This means there was an acknowledged bishop of Rome, with this authority, easily dating back to 225AD. Now if the last Apostle (St John) died around 90AD, and any given Protestant is going to suggest the Papacy is an apostate invention, then this means Christianity had to have gone apostate in under 150 years.

While the Eastern Orthodox would not deny the Bishop of Rome Traditionally had high authority (as many historical Christian testimonies prove), even being the "first among equals" (an uninspired and fictitious phrase invented by anti-Papal advocates) when it came to the (three) Patriarchs (i.e. Rome, Alexandria, Antioch), there still leaves the issue of whether this canon suggests Primacy or rather Roman subordination to this Council (and equal authority among Bishops). That the Bishop of Rome is looked to as a "standard" here in this canon is itself good evidence that the Bishop of Rome was not merely "first among equals" with no true superior authority. But that's only granting the anti-Papal interpretation of the canon!

What is the Catholic interpretation of this canon?

To answer that question, Catholics have made the following argument, masterfully stated in this article. Here is the essence of the argument:
  • To render Canon 6 along the lines of: "Let the Bishop of Alexandria rule this jurisdiction since the Bishop of Rome is also a Patriarch [with his own separate jurisdiction]" is nonsense; it's the non-sequitur fallacy: it doesn't follow nor fit with the (territorial) claims being made in regards to Alexandria.
  • The only reading that makes sense is something along the lines of: "Let the Bishop of Alexandria rule this jurisdiction since it is the tradition of the Pope to grant Alexandria this jurisdiction." This directly connects to the first clause, and the reasoning and force of the argument is that the authority to which it is appealing to (i.e. Rome) is sufficient to settle the matter.
This obviously entails two things: the Council submitting to the traditions of the Pope (Bishop of Rome), and a clear primacy over the other two Patriarchs (and by extension all bishops of the Church). This refutes Eastern Orthodoxy.

*          *          *
Update: 5-12-12

I just found another great piece of evidence to supply to this argument. In the Second Ecumenical Council (i.e. Constantinople 1), about 50 years after Nicaea, here is what was said in Canon 2
Diocesan bishops are not to intrude in churches beyond their own boundaries nor are they to confuse the churches: but in accordance with the canons, the bishop of Alexandria is to administer affairs in Egypt only; the bishops of the East are to manage the East alone (whilst safeguarding the privileges granted to the church of the Antiochenes in the Nicene canons); and the bishops of the Asian diocese are to manage only Asian affairs; and those in Pontus only the affairs of Pontus; and those in Thrace only Thracian affairs. Unless invited bishops are not to go outside their diocese to perform an ordination or any other ecclesiastical business. If the letter of the canon about dioceses is kept, it is clear that the provincial synod will manage affairs in each province, as was decreed at Nicaea. But the churches of God among barbarian peoples must be administered in accordance with the custom in force at the time of the fathers.
This Canon is most certainly calling to mind Canon 6 of Nicaea. Yet notice that there is no mention of Rome among the two giants of Alexandria and Antioch. This strongly supports the claim that Rome has no boundaries, and thus Canon 6 was indeed not putting Rome as on par with Alexandria and Antioch. 

And to drive this point even further home, notice what Canon 3 of Constantinople 1 says:
Because it is new Rome, the bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy the privileges of honour after the bishop of Rome.
So here Rome is mentioned, and it clearly is shown to be the head, as even the man-made See of Constantinople (with no ancient customs and no apostolic roots) is said to be in second rank. 

In short, these two Councils did not dare to infringe upon the rights and prerogatives of Rome.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Justification by Faith Alone Debate - Cross Examination Questions by Nick to Jeff

Justification by Faith Alone Debate
Cross Examination Questions to Jeff
asked by Nick

1) What are the top 3 passages which you believe most strongly teach the notion of Christ’s Active Obedience (i.e. that He kept the law in our place and this obedience was counted as if we had done it)?

Justification by Faith Alone Debate - Rebuttal Essay by Nick

Justification by Faith Alone Debate
Rebuttal Essay 
by Nick

(1) This Rebuttal Essay will focus upon interacting with Jeff's Opening Essay. As I noted in the conclusion of my Opening Essay, Sola Fide has a specific meaning, and it's not enough to simply point to a passage that speaks on “salvation by faith” without proving the concepts behind the doctrine.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

William Webster's astonishing claims about Sola Scriptura

William Webster is a popular Reformed Apologist who has published many articles online. He is very blunt when it comes to defending Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide, which is an approach I admire because one should be confident when doing apologetics for the position they deem to be the correct one. I recently came across one article of his on Sola Scriptura that was too important to not comment upon. Him being one of the more well known Protestant apologists, I was shocked at the foundational claims he made for his position.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Justification by Faith Alone Debate - Opening Essay by Jeff

A Debate Over Sola Fide: Opening Essay by Jeff

A. Introduction:

Why engage in a debate on the subject of faith? As Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." If God is to be pleased with the Christian, faith must have it's proper place. Of course, neither Catholic nor Protestant deny that faith is an essential aspect of the Christian life. But it is my firm conviction that only the Protestant doctrine of sola fide succeeds in giving faith its proper and due place in the Christian life; faith is its very foundation, the very substance of the gospel - through it we are justified, accepted by God; through it we obtain forgiveness from all sins past, present and future; through it we have hope in this life and in the life to come. Scripture affirms all of this. To deny that salvation comes through faith and faith alone is to rip out the very heart of Christianity - for Christ Himself preached that He was sent to give eternal life to those who believe in Him (John 3:16).

Friday, October 1, 2010

Justification by Faith Alone Debate - Opening Essay by Nick

Does the Bible teach Justification by Faith Alone?

Opening Essay

by Nick

I would like to begin by thanking Jeff for engaging in this debate with me; he will be affirming the resolution, I will be denying it.

1) The doctrine of Sola Fide is built from the premise that, starting with Adam, God had established a way for man to get to heaven, and this condition was perfect obedience to God’s law (which, conversely, demanded punishments for violating it). This is popularly termed in Protestant theology the “Covenant of Works” (cf London Baptist Confession 19.1-2), and is to be thought of as akin to scoring a 100% on a test to be worthy of an “A” in class. Adam failed this obligation, bringing corruption and sin upon the whole world. With fallen man not only failing to perfectly keep God’s law (and thus not worthy to enter Heaven), he also deserves punishment for breaking it. But what man could not do for himself, God graciously did for him, in Christ: Who through the Incarnation both took the punishment man deserved (aka “passive obedience”) and kept God’s law perfectly in man's place (aka “active obedience”) - and graciously “credited” this (dual) obedience to the account of those sinners who receive this (so called) “righteousness of Christ” by faith. This is popularly termed the “Covenant of Grace”. The moment the sinner receives “Christ’s Righteousness” by faith, they are said to be “Justified” - which is a once and for all time legal declaration by God acting as Judge declaring that this individual not only has been cleared of any wrongdoing (i.e. punishments are satisfied) but that this individual is also “righteous” (which is a legal status bestowed upon those who perfectly keep God’s laws) legally entitling them to enter Heaven (cf LBC 11.1).

2) For Jeff to win this debate, he must demonstrate the above concepts are clearly supported by Scripture.

3) While there is some truth to the Protestant understanding of justification, there are significant unbiblical concepts which Sola Fide rests upon. These erroneous concepts will now be addressed.

(3a) “Covenant of Works”. Many of the details behind this doctrine are presupposed and not derived from Scripture. Most significant to this debate is that the “law,” “covenant,” and “works of the Law” Paul was preaching against - in contradistinction to “faith” - was none other than the (works of the) Mosaic Law, not some eternal law of God given to Adam. The Mosaic Law never promised eternal life, even if kept perfectly (e.g. Galatians 2:21; 3:15-18; 4:21-31), and was inferior to the (new and perfect) “Law of Christ” (e.g. Mk 10:2-12). Clearly, the main problem Paul was dealing with was not Pelagianism, but rather a Racial and Covenental problem (i.e. Jews 'versus' Gentiles): Acts 13:39; 15:1,5; Rom 3:29; Gal 6:12-13; Phil 3:2-6. This is why Paul focused his attention in Romans and Galatians on identifying the proper relationship to Abraham (e.g. Rom 4:11-12; Gal 3:29), while exposing the improper relationship (Rom 2:28-29; 9:6-7; cf. Matt 3:7-9; John 8:39, etc).

(3b) Christ’s “active obedience”. The Bible nowhere teaches this concept. This is not to say Christ sinned, He did not - it is only to say this was not done as a specific component for our justification but rather as a condition in order to make Him a worthy sacrifice.

The chief proof-text is Romans 5:19. The Protestant reasoning here is that Adam’s disobedience is contrasted to Christ’s obedience, and thus it must be saying Christ kept the law in our place. But this is simply begging the question, since Christ's “passive obedience” certainly fits here, with no reason to assume more than that. In fact, the only other time “obedience” is said in reference to Christ is in Philippians 2:8 and Hebrews 5:8, which are both explicitly speaking of passive obedience only.

When the lack of any reasonable Biblical evidence for “active obedience” is compared to the abundant references to “passive obedience,” as the saying goes, “the silence is deafening”: in virtually every verse where Christ’s work is mentioned, the only component ever mentioned is Christ’s Suffering/Death (and Resurrection), never his “active obedience”. Consider: Rom 3:21-26; 4:23-25; 5:6-11; 6:1-11; 8:3, 31-34; 10:6-10; 1 Cor 1:22-23; 2:2; 5:7; 15:3-4; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 2:19-21; 3:13-14; 6:14; Eph 2:13-16; 5:2, 25; Phil 2:5-11; 3:8-11; Col 1:19-23; 2:11-15; 3:1-3; 1 Thes 4:13-14; 5:9-10; 1 Tim 2:5-6; Titus 2:13-14; Heb 1:3, 2:9-10, 14-17; 5:1, 7-9; 6:4-6, 7:20-27; 9:11-28; 10:8-22; 12:1-2, 24; 13:12, 20-21; 1 Peter 1:17-19; 2:18-25; 3:18-22; 1 Jn 2:1-2; 3:16; 4:10; etc.

It cannot be an accident that there are repeated reference to Christ’s Death (and Resurrection), without a single mention of “active obedience.”

Lastly, the concept of Christ's “active obedience” contradicts the plain Scriptural teaching that God grants a believer “eternal life” not when they first believe, but at the judgment at end of their life (Lk 18:18-30; Rom 2:6-8, 6:22, Gal 6:7-9, etc) - and deems them worthy (or not) on the basis of the Christian's own good works, not on the basis of Christ's good works done in their place (e.g Mat 25:31-46; 2 Cor 5:10). The doctrine of Sola Fide has (mistakenly) conflated conversion with final salvation (e.g. Mat 24:12-13; Rom 8:24; 10:9-10; 13:11b; 1 Cor 10:1-6; 15:2; 1 Tim 2:15; 2 Tim 4:7-8). (NB: the Final Judgment texts, with God acting as Judge, are the only passages in which salvation is stated in a principally forensic framework.)

(3c) Christ’s “passive obedience”. While numerous passages speak of Christ suffering and dying for our sins, the Protestant understanding of passive obedience is an unbiblical concoction called “Penal Substitution” - teaching that Christ received the very punishment the sinner deserved, which is nothing short of suffering the Father’s full Wrath (which the damned in hell must end up suffering for themself). John Calvin (as do most other Protestant theologians) taught that:

"Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God's anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. ... Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God." (Institutes 3:16:10)

Needless to say, the Bible never teaches Jesus endured anything more than a physical death, a murder in fact, and certainly not the Father's Wrath. Further, the OT never teaches Penal Substitution, thus it's incongruent that it would foreshadow such for Christ. The use of the Old Testament term “atonement” (Strong's #H3722) never involves transferring punishment but rather turning away wrath by doing good deeds (e.g. Gen 32:20; Ex 30:16; Ex32:30//Psalm106:19-23//Deut 9:13-29; Num 16:46-48; Num 25:1-13//Pslam106:30-31; Num 31:50; Prov 16:6, 14). And the Levitical Sacrifices didn't operate in terms of Penal Substitution either. For example: (i) the Sin Offering was only for minor/unintentional sins, never for grave sin (Num 35:30-33), and could be made without killing (Lev 5:11-13); (ii) the Peace Offering was not about atoning for sin, but involved virtually the same instructions of laying on hands on the animal's head and killing it (e.g. Lev 3:1-2).

Lastly, Penal Substitution entails that all of the believers sins he has committed and will ever commit are forgiven at once, which is not only never taught in Scripture, it is contradicted by the fact Scripture only speaks of past sins forgiven (e.g. 2 Pt 1:9; 1 Jn 1:9) and the regular need for repentance (e.g. Mat 6:12), else the believer will lose his salvation and even be damned (e.g. Mk 9:43-47; Mat 18:23-35). David is a prime example of this, as Lutherans (rightly) teach in the Book of Concord (Smalcald Articles 3:3:43), quoting Martin Luther: “when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them.” In other words, David lost his salvation (justification) and had to repent to recover it, as Romans 4 describes his repentance in Psalm 32.

(3d) “Christ’s Righteousness”. Despite the fact the two components which 'comprise' Christ’s Righteousness (i.e. His passive and active obedience) are not actually biblical, since there is frequent mention of “Christ’s Righteousness” (also called the “righteousness of Christ”) by Protestant sources, some points are in order: 

  • Nowhere does the term “Christ’s Righteousness” nor any equivalent concept appear in Scripture.

  • Luther originally got the idea by mistakenly thinking it was the “Righteousness of God,” but Paul is speaking of the Righteousness of God the Father, not Jesus particularly. (The Father never had to earn this righteousness by perfect law keeping; it’s a quality of God’s Nature, not a legal status.)

  • When the Bible speaks of righteousness in reference to Christ or the “Righteousness of God,” it is speaking primarily of God’s faithfulness to fulfilling His Promises, despite the fact sinners seem to have foiled His Plans (Jeremiah 33:14-18; Rom 3:3-5).

(3e) Imputation. The Greek term for “impute” (also translated into English as “credited,” “reckoned,” “counted,” etc, all with the same general meaning) is logizomai (Strong’s #G3049), and most Bible dictionaries readily admit the primary meaning is to take a literal account of something. Though the term is used about 40 times in the New Testament, it's never used in the sense Protestants suggest. The sense in which the Protestant is using logizomai is along the lines of “transfer,” such that the phrase “faith is credited [logizomai] as righteousness(Romans 4:3) is taken to mean “faith transfers [Christ's] Righteousness to the believer's account.” But again, the Bible never uses logizomai in this manner.

Consider how the New Testament itself points away from the Protestant definition of the term. Here are some examples: 

  • Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 

  • Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

  • Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  • Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

In each of the above situations, the term logizomai is being used to reckon what is actually true about the object itself. In other words, in these examples Paul reckons that:

(i) a man is saved by faith not by works of the law, which is a fact about the nature of works of the law, since they don’t save.

(ii) a working man’s wages are reckoned not as a gift but rather (reckoned) as debt, which is likewise a fact about the nature of paid-wages. (This context is where “reckoned” [logizomai] also occurs in Rom 4:3,5!)

(iii) the Christian is to be reckoned as dead to sin since they’ve died in a very real way to sin (as Romans 6 as a whole teaches), which again is a fact about the nature of a saved person.

(iv) the present sufferings are not comparable to Heavenly glory, which goes without saying, a fact about the nature of the current situation.

Further, there are clear examples of logizomai where someone reckons incorrectly and is thus sinning or in error since they failed to reckon something as it truly was. Consider: 

  • Mark 15:28 - Christ was (falsely) reckoned as a criminal by the Jews

  • Romans 2:3 - the hypocrite (falsely) reckons he will not be judged for committing the same sins he judges others for committing   

  • Romans 8:36 - persecutors (falsely) reckoning Christians as “sheep for the slaughter”

  • Romans 14:14 - a spiritually weak Christian (wrongly) reckons certain food to be “unclean”    

  • 2 Corinthians 10:2 - troublemakers (falsely) reckoning Paul as an unbeliever

Thus, to reckon something other than what it really is (except by similitude), especially opposite of what it is, ranges from a mistake to a grave sin - something which God could never do.

(3f) Justification. Protestants insist the Greek word for “justify” (dikaioo) means to legallydeclare righteous” (based strictly on Christ's Imputed Righteousness), while Catholics hold the term can be used a variety of ways, including “to make righteous”. Catholics contend the argument doesn’t hang on this distinction as must as Protestants have (historically) claimed, since “declare righteous” can be a sort of ‘capstone’ to a transformation that just took place within the believer. Indeed, the Council of Trent dogmatically defined Justification as an umbrella term carrying under it: forgiveness of sins (Rom 4:6; Acts 13:38f), sanctification (1 Cor 6:11), spiritual renewal (Titus 3:4-7), and adoption (Gal 3:2,7,14; 4:5; Rom 4:11-13). These components are so closely related that one cannot happen without the rest. And dikaioo is clearly expressing more than simply “declare righteous” in other texts as well, such as: (i) Luke 18:13-14 “he who humbles himself will be exalted,” which is a combination of forgiveness and inner renewal; (ii) Romans 5:9 parallels “justified by his blood” to “reconciled by his death”; (iii) Romans 6:7 defines “justify” as “freed from sin”; (iv) Romans 8:29-30 explains “called, justified, glorified” as “conformed to the image of Christ”; (v) 1 Timothy 3:16 says Jesus was “justified by the Spirit,” speaking of His Resurrection (cf Rom 1:4).

And the term dikaioo need not appear when equivalent terms such as “saved” are used. For example: (i) Acts 15:9,11 parallels “cleansed their heart by faithto “saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” (ii) Ephesians 2:5,8 says “when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christand defines this as “by grace you have been saved(iii) Philippians 3:3, 9-11 says the “the righteousness from God that depends on faithis to be understood as “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his deathThese passages frame “saved” (i.e. “justified”) in terms of an inner transformation of the soul – yet this not what Sola Fide teaches.

(3g) Faith. Sola Fide teaches that faith is a passive element in justification, acting as an “empty hand,” receiving Christ’s Righteousness. Protestants claim that for faith to have any inherent value would contradict Romans 4:4-5, reasoning that faith as an act pleasing to God would be equivalent to doing any work and getting paid for it. But this is simply misguided and not how Scripture defines faith. When it comes to the Bible defining faith Hebrews 11:1,2 & 6 says this: “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. ... And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.And to buttress this point, “faith” means “faithful obedience” in virtually every Old Testament saint referenced in Hebrews 11. Clearly, faith is an act of man (given as a gift by God), in which man is able to render belief and obedience unto God, and that faith does “please God” and receives God's commendation. This also fits the Biblical notion that faith can grow, which makes no sense if faith is a passive ‘instrument’ (since it would have to be uniform for everyone). Further, there are references Christians being of “little faith,” requests to “increase our faith,” and holy men being of “great faith” (e.g. Mt 8:10). This can only mean faith itself is a good thing, and the more you have of it, the more pleasing to God you are.

Abraham is Paul's star witness to his thesis “the righteous will live by faith[fulness](Rom 1:18, quoting Habakuk 2:4; also quoted and explained in detail in Hebrews 10:36ff). In Romans 4, Paul says Abraham was justified in Genesis 15, and describes his impressive act of faith as follows: “In hope he believed against hope... He did not weaken in faith... No distrust made him waver... but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." (4:18-22). So, contrary to Sola Fide, faith itself was credited as a righteous act - just as Phinehas' good work was credited as a righteous act (as recorded in Psalm 106:30-31, using the same Hebrew/Greek phrase “credited as righteousness” as Genesis 15:6). And this was not the first time Abraham was justified, since he faithfully followed God years before this Genesis 15 event, as Hebrews 11:8 and Galatians 3:8 show when hearkening back to Genesis 12:1-4. (Nor was Genesis 15 the last time he was justified, as James 2:14,21-24 and Genesis 22:1,9-12 teach, when God tested Abraham and Blessed his faithfulness.) And this fits other similar examples, such as when by faithful obedience Abel was “commended as righteous(Heb 11:4) and Noah's faithfulness made him “an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith(Heb 11:4; as with Abraham, Romans 4:13).

4) Having refuted, from Scripture, the tenets holding up the doctrine of Sola Fide, we would not expect any Scriptural references to “salvation by faith” to be teaching the specific doctrine of Sola Fide as the Reformers understood it.