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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Death Knell of Protestantism: Romans 4:3-5

Update 4-14-2010: see part 2 here.

Most readers with even a passing interest in apologetics are familiar with St Paul's words from Romans 4:3-5,
For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness
This passage is critical to the doctrine of Sola Fide because it is where Protestants claim St Paul expressly lays down the doctrine of the 'Imputation of Christ's Righteousness' to the believer at the (one and only) moment of Justification, and that this Righteousness is received by faith. The standard and historic Protestant interpretation of "faith is counted as righteousness" is clearly stated in the Westminster Confession (XI:1):
Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
What this passage is saying is that the phrase "faith counted as righteousness" is not to be understood as 'faith itself is counted as righteousness,' but rather, 'faith receives Christ's Righteousness.' What this article will demonstrate is effectively a silver bullet right to the heart of this heresy.
Now, to my knowledge, nobody has made the argument I'm about to make. But before I do so, I will first lay out (in no particular order) some classical (and very solid) Catholic arguments against the Protestant interpretation:
  • Abraham was not converting in Genesis 15:6, and in fact walked with God years prior to this moment in his life (e.g. Gen 12:1-4, c.f. Heb 11:8). Thus, he couldn't have been undergoing what Protestants consider "justification." Now, they might object that Paul wasn't concerned about timing (even though he clearly was, 4:9f, 18ff), but that doesn't help their bind for Gen 15:6 was a historical event and something relating to salvation clearly took place. 
  • Psalm 106:30f states Phinehas' good work was "counted as righteousness" (not his faith, though he certainly was already a believer). This phrase is identical in Hebrew and Greek to what is said in Gen 15:6. The Protestant cannot have this, for good works don't receive Christ's Righteousness, thus they seek to interpret this verse differently. The problem here is that one should generally assume identical phrases are interpreted the same (unless a reasonable case can be shown otherwise), and Catholics do have such an interpretation harmonizing the two - but the Protestant misses this point because they are busy trying to salvage Sola Fide. 
  • The text plainly says "faith" is what is reckoned as righteousness, and Romans 4:18-22 is devoted to unpacking Genesis 15:6, stating: "he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness."" This likewise fits how the Bible defines faith (e.g. Heb 11:1,6), and thus not some notion that faith is of no inherent value but merely acts as an instrument which transfers an alien righteousness.
  • When Scriptures (especially the NT) uses the Greek/Hebrew term "counted" it quite frequently means "consider something as it really is," while rarely meaning "consider something to be other than what it really is." [1] (In Romans 4 this would indicate an internal/infused righteousness, rather than an external/alien righteousness.) Thus the Protestant must approach Romans 4 with a bias, and without establishing a sufficient case for their decision, they're begging the question.
Now comes the moment where a new (and yet no less decisive point) is introduced: how "counted" is used in Romans 4:4, "to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due." Aside from what precisely Paul means by "works," there should be little dispute on the meaning of this verse: wages given for work are 'counted' as debt, they are not 'counted' as gift. In other words, a man who works receives a payment in the form of debt; the boss is not giving him a paycheck gratuitously. Here we see "counted" means to consider the working wages themselves as they truly are, debt (because their owed for work) and thus not gift (because they truly are not). If the Protestant interpretation of "counted" were correct, this passage would be either nonsensical or downright wrong.

With this in mind, we now note that this verse is located in a critical context: sandwiched between "counted as righteousness" in verse 3 and verse 5! Barring any desperate attempt to say Paul shifted the meaning of "counted" from verse 3 to 4 and then back again in verse 5, suggesting Paul engaged in equivocation, the Protestant position is indefensible.

What is most astonishing about all these points is that Catholics are simply letting Scripture speak (which fully support the Catholic position), while the Protestant position (ironically, from a Sola Scriptura point of view) has to read into the text all sorts of preconceived notions and dance around the glaring difficulties.

End Note:
[1] See my article: Full Biblical analysis of "counted."

16 comments:

Andrew said...

Alright, Nick. I have to confess that I am unsure what point you are trying to make here. If I am reading you correctly then you are missing Paul's point. In short, those who do not work to earn God's approval, but "believe on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Paul's point is that justification does not come to those who work for it, because that sets God up as their debtor. Again, I am unsure what you see in the text to overthrow Paul's plain words. I thought I would respond quickly before I listen to James White's response to your article. Please clarify your point for me if I have failed to grasp it.

Nick said...

My point is that the Protestant has no basis to argue faith has no inherent value but is instead an 'empty hand' which receives an alien righteousness. That meaning cannot be squeezed from "faith counted as righteousness," nor Rom 4 or the Bible as a whole.

I agree Paul is speaking against those who seek to make God a debtor, but the fallacy here is that you think Paul is arguing against any and all acts at any time (at least prior to justification) make God a debtor when that simply isn't so.

As an example, take the word "please": when you request something and say "please" you are not making that person a debtor to your question, they don't have to respond, yet most people are decent enough to gladly respond because the approach was polite.

This is one of the root errors of the Judaizing heresy, a sort of "grace alone," thinking that because they were biological descendants of Abraham that they were entitled to all the blessings and protection God promised Abraham and his offspring.
Look at this stinging rebuke from St John the Baptist against this mindset (Matt 3:9):
"do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham."

St John will have none of that and says God will turn elsewhere before He complies with such attitudes. This issue is at the heart of what Paul is saying in Rom 9:1-8 and in his throughout his Epistles.

In short, it is an utterly fallacious and false argument to suggest that any sort of act (even faith) somehow puts God in debt. That fallacious argument is akin to the abuse and mischaracterization of saying that since a Protestant is eternally secure they are free to sin and have no motive for good works...as if doing good works out of love for God were unthinkable or impossible.

Wesley said...

This is so laughable!

Nick said...

TO ALL: I have responded in full to James White's unsuccessful attempt at a rebuttal:

http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2010/04/rebuttal-of-james-whites-analysis-of-my.html

JoeyHenry said...

Responded to your post: http://thessalonians516.blogspot.com/2010/04/romans-4-response-to-silver-bullet-of.html

Nick said...

Hi Joey,

Long time no see. Note that I have responded to White's comments in part 2 in a new post.

Since I'm not allowed to post comments on your blog (because you consider it a place for reflection and not debate), I'll have to respond briefly here in this combox in a post or two.

(1) James White is adamant that Abraham was justified at the historical moment of Genesis 15:6, not before. So this is not a made up charge. Next, to argue Paul isn't concerned with the time frame (e.g. "Paul was not dealing with the question on whether or not Abraham was justified before Genesis 15:6 or after") is to betray the plain language of verses like 9ff and 18 ("10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!"). Your time-independent argument renders such passages utterly irrelevant.
Lastly, I'm unaware of anything in the context or wording of Gen 15:6 to indicate this was a time-independent event nor indication 15:6 was a flashback. Thus, you're forced to leave Gen 15:1-6 'suspended' with no reference to actual history.

(2) Whether an apostle appealed to Psalm 106:30 is irrelevant. The point is the same phrase appears, and thus we should use that as a guide. When we see the phrase "Joey ate an apple," and compare it to "Nick ate an apple," we should assume "ate an apple" means the same thing in each case. The Protestant says "ate an apple" in case1 means one thing, while "ate an apple" in case2 means something totally different.

You then shift the argument onto whether this means "infusion" took place, saying logizomai does not mean infuse...I never said it did. This is changing the subject. Logizomai in essence means to make a mental evaluation of what you see before you. Period.
It doesn't mean "infuse", nor does it mean "transfer" (which is similar to 'infusing') as Protestants contend when exegeting "faith credited as righteousness."

(3) The term eis has a wide usage, used hundreds of times in Scripture; context must determine it's meaning, not presupposition. Further, above you admitted the same term means Phinehas performed a righteous act, and didn't argue this "unto" stuff.
That there are no grounds to say faith is an 'empty hand' and that you admit faith pleases God ultimately supports my claim. If faith pleases and gives glory to God, that all the more reason to accept God saw Abraham's faith as a righteous act.

(4) Regarding the range of meaning of logizomai and esp how Rom 4 uses it, the fact is Protestant apologists are simply jumping to conclusions.

You said: We have a situation where a person destitute of the required works to earn a wage was credited a wage.

N: This is because the wage is given on a different basis, not because someone is "none the less" granted the same wage. God never pays debt-wages, that doesn't mean He doesn't pay under other conditions.

You said: We have picture of an ungodly person who was declared righteous.

N: That's inaccurate. The phrase "justifies the ungodly" does not translate to God saying "you unrighteous man are righteous." Nobody, not even Protestants, would agree with that.

You said: We have an illustration of a sinner whose sins was not “counted” or “charged” against him.

N: Yes, because the sins are forgiven. If your debt is removed, the bank won't "count" you as a debtor. God is not saying a sinner is going to be counted as a non-sinner, and even Protestants agree. God deals with sin, legally and morally, it does not 'remain' with God overlooking it.

Nick said...

You said: Now what does that connote? Paul is painting a picture of a person who is clearly a sinner and yet regarded as righteous by God (regard something as something else).

N: This is simply erroneous. Remember the 'legal fiction' charge? When Protestants hear that they jump up and down **INSISTING** it's not a legal fiction precisely because God is justifying on the **GROUND** of punishing the sin AND actual legal (though alien) righteousness. There is no moment where God is judicially declaring “unrighteous is righteous”. You betray your own theology and exegesis.

You said: I don’t think the Protestant understanding of Romans 4 is biased.

N: It is because they have not established how (1) logizomai should be taken other than it's normal, mass majority usage, and (2) used in the sense of "transfer," when no such usage is ever found. To say "faith credited as righteousness" means "faith *transfers* righteousness" is inventing definitions.

(5) You said: Here, I think, Nick will appreciate more the Greek language once he will recognize that the range of meaning of “logizomai” is wide.

N: I deny the range of logizomai is "wide," and I deny Paul shifts the meaning of 'logizomai' back and forth in the same set of verses.

You said: Other than the meaning already discussed in number 4 (i.e. regard or reckoned – which is an act of the mind where a person perceives the subject based on certain criterias), “logizomai” can also be used in a commercial sense and carries the meaning of “crediting something to ones account”.

N: I consider this a distinction without a difference, though I wouldn't agree logizomai means "credit something to one's account" in the sense of 'transfer'. Logizomai essentially means to make a mental calculation, and it's range of meaning deviating from this is narrow.

You said: This accounting context is what is being referred in Romans 4:4. There is an act of crediting a wage to the worker. The verb here is “credited” and the object of that verb is “a wage”. In layman’s understanding, there is a transfer of money from an empty ledger or account.

N: There is no such indication or connotation of "transfer" here - that would be akin to reckon meaning 'infuse', something which you've spent considerable time denying. It is speaking of reckoning the wage as debt or gift. For example, I can reckon a dollar to be either genuine or counterfeit. Paul is saying the wage can either be a debt-wage or a gift-wage. The wage is the *direct object* to which "reckon" is directed. I can reckon an apple as 'red', 'organic', 'bitter', etc, which has nothing to do with transferring. Reckon means to mentally count X to be something, it doesn't mean 'transfer'.

You said: Romans 4:4 would then say that wages are not credited (or transferred to the account) as a gift but as a debt. The words "gift" or "debt" describes the nature of the act of "crediting a wage".

N: Again, credited does not mean "transfer," that meaning is not part of the range of meaning of 'logizomai'. This factor is very problematic for the Protestant interpretation. Reckoning takes place in the mind, it is a computation/evaluation, not a transfer. This all ties into the problem where Protestants don't want to examine how Scripture uses (or does not use) the term "counted".

JoeyHenry said...

1. I am not here to defend James White's views. The usage of Genesis 15:6 as a reference to "Abrahamic faith" is common in Paul's time. It is not tied up to a single event in Abraham's life but can refer to different events exemplifying the nature of his faith. See for example: James 2:23 where it is used to portray the nature of "Abramahic faith" in the aqedah event. So, I am not overly concerned with your insistence to put Genesis 15:6 as you put it. First, the writers during that time applied this verse to the different events of Abraham's life (Gen 12, 15, 22). Second, Paul is not answering the question whether or not Abraham was justified before Gen 15:6 in Romans 4:3. Instead, the context indicates that Paul is asking WHAT justified Abraham in quoting Genesis 15:6 The answer is that Abraham is justified by "faith". This is the kind of "faith" (not his works) that we see in Gen 12, 15 or 22 where there is a total reliance on the promises of God rather than on what man has done before Him.

2. The word "logizomai" does carry the same meaning in Psalm 106:31 and Romans 4 in their own context. It does not mean "infuse".

3. I can carry the same translation of eis in Psalm 106:31.

4. It doesn't follow that the actions of sinful men that pleases God becomes meritorious of gaining "justification" with God.

5. Let's take the context of Romans 4 to see how it is used. The main point of Romans 4 is that there is a reversal of a verdict from an original status to another. There is indeed a basis of that "change" in evaluation. But remember, "logizomai" is not a language of "infusion". The context of Romans 4 is clear, there is a recognition of an originally "ungodly" person to be "declared righteous". It is not, "godly" = "declared righteous" but "ungodly" = "declared righteous". There is indeed a basis of that change of perspective, but the point is that is that Romans 4's context is about the "regarding of something (ungodly) as something (having righteousness) else".

5. "Transfer" can be understood contextually. The point is, "logizomai" can be used in a commercial sense which is the context of Romans 4:4. The wage was credited to the non-worker's account in Romans 4:4. He received (credited) a salary (or salary was transferred to his account) not because he earned it because in reality he did not work for it.
5. You will say that the "non-worker" believes instead of work. But you see, the framework of "faith" here is that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law in behalf of sinners. The "non-worker" relies upon what Jesus Christ did in his behalf. It is not the value of his faith per se, but the value of whom the "non-worker" put his trust that became the basis of his being credited a wage.

Nick said...

1a) I'm not asking you to defend White's views, only to note respected Reformed Apologists make that argument; it's not a Catholic invention.

1b) While "Abrahamic faith" is common in Paul's time, the specific phrase "credited as righteousness" is attached to the historical event of Gen 15:1-6. From what you've argued, you cannot render a coherent meaning of Gen 15:1-6. God appears to Abraham, reaffirms His promise, Abraham gets worried, God assures Him (Rom 4:18), and Abraham responds in faith - to which God credits it as righteousness. What does this mean? Protestants insist "justify" in James 2 means to "vindicate" - that is prove his faith genuine - but this would have to logically apply to Gen 15:6 as well, for Abraham was a believer before then. And in terms of Reformed Systematic Theology, Abraham would actually be growing in sanctification at that point as well. You're trying to interpret "credited as righteousness" as something akin to "proved Abraham had saving faith," but that doesn't work.

You said: the writers during that time applied this verse to the different events of Abraham's life (Gen 12, 15, 22).

N: I deny Gen 15:6 was applied in the same manner at different events. Systematically speaking, Abraham could only be justified once, and it had to have occurred prior to Gen 15. Gen 12 is the earliest time the Bible applies faith and promises to Abraham, so logically you must say Gen 12 is when Abraham was justified.

You said: Paul is not answering the question whether or not Abraham was justified before Gen 15:6 in Romans 4:3. Instead, the context indicates that Paul is asking WHAT justified Abraham in quoting Genesis 15:6 The answer is that Abraham is justified by "faith".

N: In Rom 4, Paul is not concerned with Abraham's life prior to Gen 15 because his argument is simply looking to a point in Abraham's life anytime prior to circumcision. Paul is not only asking "what," but "when," to deny this is to render much of Rom 4 (e.g. vv9-12) as nonsense.

You said: This is the kind of "faith" (not his works) that we see in Gen 12, 15 or 22 where there is a total reliance on the promises of God rather than on what man has done before Him.

N: This is a false conclusion. You are ruling out all works of any kind when that is not Paul's point; you're going outside of Paul's argument. To say that Abraham was demonstrating "faith alone" in Gen 12 or 22 is to impose your doctrine onto the text. Each mention of Abraham's faith is more accurately faithful obedience, which doesn't fit a 'faith alone' interpretation.

2) You said: "The word "logizomai" does carry the same meaning in Psalm 106:31 and Romans 4 in their own context."

N:  It carries the same meaning in their own context? Either it carries the same meaning or it does not. If it means Phinehas' act was 'credited' as a righteous act because it really was, and you say it's the same meaning in Rom 4, then 'credited' should mean faith was 'credited' as righteousness because it really was. 

3) You said:  "I can carry the same translation of eis in Psalm 106:31."

N: Then what does the text mean? Phinehas' act looked to an alien righteousness? That doesn't make sense at that point.

4) You said: It doesn't follow that the actions of sinful men that pleases God becomes meritorious of gaining "justification" with God.

N: This is only problematic with the inserting of your notion of 'meritorious' into the text. You appear to be thinking if God responds favorably to a pleasing act, it must be "buying" salvation. Catholics deny this. Abraham performed a pleasing act to which God credited as righteousness, without any sort of putting God in debt to owe him. God is *pleased* to respond favorably.

Nick said...

(2 of 2)

5)  You said: The main point of Romans 4 is that there is a reversal of a verdict from an original status to another. There is indeed a basis of that "change" in evaluation. But remember, "logizomai" is not a language of "infusion".

N: There is a reversal of verdict *WITH* a basis for it - thus any notion of crediting something to be other than what it is has no basis. (For the nth time, I never said logizomai=infuse.)

You said: The context of Romans 4 is clear, there is a recognition of an originally "ungodly" person to be "declared righteous". It is not, "godly" = "declared righteous" but "ungodly" = "declared righteous". There is indeed a basis of that change of perspective, but the point is that is that Romans 4's context is about the "regarding of something (ungodly) as something (having righteousness) else".

N: You're fallaciously trying to have it both ways. At no time is an unrighteous person simultaneously declared righteous. That's Sola Fide properly understood. You're pulling a bait and switch. Protestants begin by pointing to "unrighteous declared righteous" but go onto 'clarify' that this includes FORGIVENESS of sins AND a real righteousness applied to them. When God looks at the converting individual's legal status, God sees (a) the legal penalties have been *SATISFIED* and (b) the righteous requirements have been *SATISFIED*. With Sola Fide *properly* understood, God is *never* declaring an unrighteous person to be righteous; for God to act like that undermines everything Protestant's say Christ did via His passive and active obedience.
The key here is to realize "justify the ungodly" does not mean "declare the unrighteous to be righteous," that's Protestantism injecting a false definition of 'justify' into the text. The phrase "justify the ungodly" means first and foremost to forgive the sinner, and this is abundantly plain in Rom 4:5-8.

5) You said: "Transfer" can be understood contextually. The point is, "logizomai" can be used in a commercial sense which is the context of Romans 4:4. The wage was credited to the non-worker's account in Romans 4:4. He received (credited) a salary (or salary was transferred to his account) not because he earned it because in reality he did not work for it.

N: That's not an accurate reading of the text, specifically how "credited" is used. It speaks of "wages credited as debt," which is speaking of the *nature* of the wage; the focus is not "wage credited to the non-workers account". The text is not speaking of a wage being transferred but rather the *nature* of the wage. The *nature* of the wage is properly identified as well, crediting something as what it really is, for never can a debt-wage be "credited" as a gift-wage.

5) You said: You will say that the "non-worker" believes instead of work. But you see, the framework of "faith" here is that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law in behalf of sinners. The "non-worker" relies upon what Jesus Christ did in his behalf. It is not the value of his faith per se, but the value of whom the "non-worker" put his trust that became the basis of his being credited a wage.

N: Your comment is a mix of truth and error. The context (nor any other passage) states "Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law in behalf of sinners," quite the opposite: Jesus abolished the Law. The "non-worker" does indeed rely on what Jesus did in his behalf, and faith is credited as righteousness precisely because it accepts divine truths, but there is no 'power struggle' between those points. Paul says our faith will be credited as righteousness "for us who *believe in God* who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead."

JoeyHenry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JoeyHenry said...

Nick,

1. You do not understand the argument I am making with regards to Paul's usage of Genesis 15:6. I am not talking about whether "justify" means "vindicate". I am not arguing that "credited for righteousness" means "proved Abraham has saving faith". Rather, what I am arguing is that Paul's usage of Genesis 15:6, simply, does not address whether or not Abraham was justified before or after that event. In writing Romans 4:1-3 (cf. 3:27-28), he is answering WHAT (not WHEN) justified Abraham. The use of Genesis 15:6 is common during Paul's time and his contemporaries. They applied it to different events of Abraham's life. In the canon itself, such phenomenon is evident. Example, in Romans 4:22, the Genesis 15:6 quote was tied up to event when God promised Isaac to Abraham. Paul also tied up Genesis 15:6 to the event when God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5) which way beyond the historical chronology of Genesis 15. In Galatians 3:6, the Genesis 15:6 quote is tied up to event when God promised that all nations will be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:3). In James 2:23, the Genesis 15:6 quote was tied up to the Aqedah event (Genesis 22). This is also common outside the canonical writings. But, I don't think I have the time to fully document it here. The point is, Paul (even his contemporaries) did not use Genesis 15:6 in a strictly chronological time frame when referring to Abrahamic Faith. This "Abrahamic faith" (Romans 4:16) is the same kind of faith that we see in Genesis 12, 15, 22. It is this kind of “faith” that relies solely on what God has done rather than what Abraham can do (or has done) that models our faith in Jesus Christ.

2. I think the argument regarding the context of Romans 4 with regards to its usage of "logizomai" has been well established. It is in the context of a reversal of a verdict from being originally "ungodly" to being "declared righteous". That is, there is a regarding of an originally ungodly person into something else -- a person who is righteous. Now, I believe there is a basis of the reversal of that verdict. The thing is that, the nature of such reversal has the framework of being "elogisthe", that is "credited, reckoned, regarded, imputed". It does not accommodate the idea that the originally "ungodly" person was subjectively changed inherently and infused with righteousness since "logizomai" does not carry that meaning. But for Rome, justification must carry the meaning of infusion. But if that is true, that concept is absent from Paul’s framework in Romans 4 since he explicitly said that the reversal of the verdict from an ungodly person to one who is righteous does not involved a subjective change of the ungodly because such act coaxed in the language of “logizomai”. I believe the Catholic idea of meriting justice or righteousness through sanctifying grace which subjectively changes the sinner in order for him to do good works that merits of righteousness and eternal life (the non-performance thereof through mortal sin and stored up venial sins demerits such righteousness or justice) is not shared by Paul in his magnificent explanation of how an ungodly person is justified before a just God Romans 4. Your argument actually centered on a lecture on the correct understanding of Sola Fide (which is not necessary as I am well aware of how it is understood). Your argument does not address the context of Romans 4.

3. Other than these two points, I really have nothing to add to the discussion. Thanks for the interaction.

Nick said...

Joey,

1. I do understand the argument you are making, the reason why I don't accept it is that it's a form of proof texting without regard to the texts original context; I don't believe Paul operated in that manner. You believe "credited as righteousness" means justification, yet you don't believe justification took place in Gen 15:1-6. Instead, you believe Paul lifted this special phraseology and applied it without regard to it's original context.

You mention Romans 4:1-3 (cf. 3:27-28), when the context is plainly "works of the Law" with special focus on circumcision. Thus Paul is not about ruling out works as a whole from Abraham's life. The heart of Paul's argument is Romans 4:9-12 (which is utter nonsense if 'when' is not in focus), that's where he demolishes the Judaizers, and this is done by an appeal to history (i.e. when Abraham was justified). The 'when' and 'what' are directly tied together, for circumcision didn't exist yet; you're creating a false dichotomy by separating the two.

The fact the phrase is mentioned in relation to other events of his life isn't a problem. The time frame in each reference is important to the point being made in each time. And with your argument, you don't help your 'faith alone' cause at all, for if 15:6 applies equally in regards to texts like Gen 12, 17, and 22, those certainly were not 'faith alone' moments!


2. That Rom 4 is about reversal of a verdict is not a problem, for that reversal is based on an actual foundation. The fact that you don't address the 'forgiveness' factor here while continuing to mention the irrelevant 'logizomai=infuse' shows you're drawing attention away from the actual argument. This also ties into your fallacious equating of 'justify' with an ultra-strict meaning of 'declare righteous', when the fact is 'logizomai' doesn't mean declare, nor does 'forgiven' mean declare, thus you're forcing a square peg into a round hole. Another issue is that logizomai doesn't mean transfer, which means you're working with your own definition rather than the Biblical one.

There is at no time someone unrighteous being declared righteous, if there were, it would be a legal fiction (if not worse).

By you ignoring Rom 4:6-8, you're building a wrong understanding of the situation. A forgiven person is not 'unrighteous'.

3) You might have nothing more to add for the last points, but all I see is serious errors being espoused and left undefended.

JoeyHenry said...

Sorry took me a long time to respond to this. Although, I've indicated in response to Joe that it is my last response, I would like to end it in this post.

1. The simplest way to respond to Nick's position is to point out his misapplication of 2 Tim 3:16. The passage does not say "All Scripture is sufficient" and yet his argument hinges on this assumption. The passage rather says "All Scripture is theopneustos" which emphasizes the origin and nature of Scripture first rather than its sufficiency. There can be no understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture apart from an understanding of the true origin and the resultant nature of Scripture. Thus, the Apostle asserts first the nature and origin of Scripture before he lists the practical results derived from that nature including sufficiency when he summarizes the resultant effect when the source of teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness is derived from Scripture -- i.e. "so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work".

Having said that point, the seeming confusion, posed by Nick is of his own imagination because the passage says never says "All Scripture is sufficient". Rather, the passage first asserts the Scripture’s origin and nature (All (Every) Scripture is God-breathed) and then the resultant effect of that nature which is sufficiency (so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work).

2. Sola Scriptura does not deny that Special Revelation was delivered by the prophets and Christ’s apostles through preaching (orally) and in their writings. In fact, this is one of the assertions that must be believed before the conclusion of Sola Scriptura is reached. The conclusion is garnered upon the premise that we don’t have a living Apostle today. Thus, what we have in our era are their writings. Negatively stated, we cannot consult or physically hear an Apostle today. It is, therefore, normative to treat their writings as having the ultimately authority in the post-apostolic era where the Apostles’ physical voices have ceased. Anyone who teaches doctrines or “traditions” supposedly from the Apostles must prove it from Scripture as the normative rule of faith. Cyril of Jerusalem have succinctly laid this out:

"For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures." - Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, 4:17)

The standard response of RC Apologist is that Cyril believed many things that Protestants, nowadays, don’t believe. But, that is not the point. The point is, the principle of proving doctrine or “tradition” through Scripture is not foreign in the ancients. I can multiply this principle many times where “traditions” supposedly coming from the Apostles were claimed by different groups of people between the orthodox camp and the non-orthodox camp and yet the battle will always shift to who is in line with Scripture. The principle to prove questionable traditions from Scripture has been normative and no major tenet of the Christian faith has been admitted or believed without the authentication from Scripture being the normative rule of faith even during the time of the ancients. It is, therefore, disheartening to hear Nick throws accusation of illogic when I demand from him to tell me what sorts of “traditions” not found in Scripture that should be believed by any Christian today? He said I am merely assuming the principle of “Sola Scriptura” (although I am not) but, the fact is, this accusation can be leveled against him because he is assuming a “non-sola Scriptura” principle without also proving it.

Nick said...

I think you posted this in the wrong comment box. This comment box is dealing with Sola Fide - there is another blog entry on 2 Tim 3:16, where we were having the Sola Scriptura discussion.

I'd make the following points:

(1A) I say "all Scripture is sufficient" because that is the intention of the appeal to the passage. Everyone agrees Scripture is inspired, so it's adding a layer of confusion to focus on that.

(1B) It is an undeniable fact that inspired is not a synonym for 'sufficient', else every inspired utterance from God (even purely verbally, like to Adam or Abraham) is sufficient. Thus, your objection largely fails.

This comment perfectly demonstrates what I'm driving at:

"Rather, the passage first asserts the Scripture’s origin and nature (All (Every) Scripture is God-breathed) and then the resultant effect of that nature which is sufficiency"

If the Greek is speaking of INDIVIDUAL books or passages, then the "resultant effect" is the sufficiency of an individual book or passage. Yet Protestants deny the sufficiency of an individual book or passage.

This highlights the reason why I stripped away anything that could be taken as an added layer of confusion, for Scripture's inspiration isn't an issue. The issue is whether the passage is speaking of Scripture individually or collectively, for *THAT* has direct impact on whether 2 Timothy 3:16f could be intending to convey "the resultant effect" of sufficiency.

(2A) You said: "we don’t have a living Apostle today. Thus, what we have in our era are their writings"

This is a fallacious argument. It assumes their Oral Teaching either 'expired' or was forgotten, just because they died.
The *key* here is that you're making that leap of logic without Scriptural warrant.

Who would have said that as soon as the last Apostle died the Christians (esp folks like Timothy) at the time would have put out of their mind all they were taught orally? Or who would have thought that once the last Apostle died, most churches had even half of the 27 NT books? Or who would have thought that once the last Apostle died, Timothy would make public the private correspondence Paul sent him? Etc, etc, etc.

*See the problem with assuming what you did?*

(2B) You further said: "It is, therefore, normative to treat their writings as having the ultimately authority in the post-apostolic era"

This essentially dogmatic claim of what is *now normative* isn't being derived from a Scriptural mandate, which makes it a self-refuting proposition.

You said: "Anyone who teaches doctrines or “traditions” supposedly from the Apostles must prove it from Scripture as the normative rule of faith."

The ironic twist here is the fact your assertion that Scripture is (now) the normative rule is in fact a "tradition" supposedly from the Apostles - because you've not shown Scriptural proof for it.

(2C) You said: "The standard response of RC Apologist is that Cyril believed many things that Protestants, nowadays, don’t believe."

I wont even go there. The Fathers are a side issue here. To focus on this quote would be adding a unnecessary layer of confusion to the situation (not to mention I would assume you don't even believe St Cyril to be a true Christian/ReformedBaptist). What any given Father taught is a side issue to whether the Bible ITSELF warrants SS (including your assumptions mentioned above).

The last half of your entire response was - whether you realized it or not - an attempt to shift the burden of proof and shift focus away from SS standing or falling on it's own merits.

Ben M said...

Hi Nick,

Good post!

Might also want to check this out.

No one's yet been able to answer it!