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Monday, September 26, 2011

A Protestant show stopper: Psalm 106:30f

If you want to pull the rug out from out under a Protestant, ask them to tell you what Psalm 106:30-31 means,
Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed.
And that was counted to him as righteousness [ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην] from generation to generation forever.
As will be shown, this is one of the most devastating verses for Sola Fide in the whole Bible. It's right up there along with James 2:24 and Romans 10:9-10 (see this article and this article). I personally believe it has more to offer than those other passages because it hits the Protestant where he least expects it.

Most people have never seen Psalm 106:30-31, and the tiny minority of Protestants who do know about it keep it under tight wraps. Why? Because it targets one of their most "sacred" passages in Scripture, Romans 4:3-5 quoting Genesis 15:6 (Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness - ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην), and utterly demolishes their entire understanding of it. (In case you didn't notice, both verses use the identical Greek phrase for "credited as righteousness".)


For apologetics purposes, what this means is that in order to take full advantage of the power contained in this verse, you must first know what the Protestant is thinking.

Reformed Baptist Pastor and writer John Piper has devoted a lot of time in recent history trying to defend the classical Protestant interpretation of Romans 4:3, which he rightly recognizes is the linchpin of Sola Fide and the Reformation. Here is what he said in a sermon devoted to interpreting the very phrase "credited as righteousness,"
Does Paul Mean "Our Faith Is Our Righteousness? So here is my answer to the question. No, when Paul says "Faith is credited to us as righteousness," he does not mean that our faith is our righteousness, or any part of our justifying righteousness. He means that faith is what unites us with Christ and all that God is for us in him. When God sees faith in Christ, he sees union with Christ. And when he sees union with Christ, he sees the righteousness of Christ as our righteousness. So faith connects us with Christ who is our righteousness and, in that sense, faith is counted as righteousness. Faith sees and savors all that God is for us in Christ, especially his righteousness. That's what faith does. Now what is the Biblical basis of that interpretation? John Owen, in volume five of his Works (pp. 318-319) gives five arguments, and John Murray in his commentary on Romans gives nine arguments (pp. 353-359) why "faith credited as righteousness" does not mean that faith is our righteousness. (Faith and the Imputation of Righteousness)
In short, it is ultra-critical to properly understand the Biblical phrase "credited as righteousness," and note that it does not mean faith itself was credited as righteousness or anything similar, but rather that it means something along the lines of, 'faith grabs hold of Christ's Righteousness and transfers it to your account at the moment of justification'. Now, if it doesn't mean what Protestants have historically said it means, then the entire basis for the Reformation collapses.

Given that John Piper made reference to well respected Reformed scholar John Murray's thoughts on this matter, I believe it's important to see Murray's thoughts on Psalm 106:30f. It just so happens that Reformed apologist James White decided to tackle this verse in his book The God Who Justifies (pages 225-226), and in doing so appeals to Murray's own words:

If Phinehas was justified on the basis of what he did (an action), then clearly Paul is mistaken. Is this the case? Murray answers in the negative and argues as follows,

We must, however, recognize the difference between the two cases (Gen. 15:6 and Psalm 106:31). In the case of Phinehas it is an act of righteous zeal on his part; it is a deed. He was credited with the devotion which his faith in God produced - righteousness in the ethical and religious sense. But that which was reckoned to Abraham is of a very different sort. It is in Paul's interpretation and application of Genesis 15:6 this becomes quite patent. Paul could not have appealed to Psalm 106:31 in this connection without violating his whole argument. For if he had appealed to Psalm 106:31 in the matter of justification, the justification of the ungodly (cf. vs. 5), then the case of Phinehas would have provided an inherent contradiction and would have demonstrated justification by a righteous and zealous act. Though then the formula in Genesis 15:6 is similar to that of Psalm 106:31, the subjects with which they deal are diverse. Genesis 15:6 is dealing with justification, as Paul shows; Psalm 106:31 is dealing with the good works which were the fruit of faith. This distinction must be kept in view in the interpretation of Genesis 15:6, particularly as applied by Paul in this chapter. 

Those who would point to this passage as subversive of sola fide likewise ignore a few other issues. The context of Genesis 15:6 is clearly that of God giving the promise to Abraham so that his faith is in that promise, a point Paul will stress in the rest of the chapter. There is no promise in Numbers 25 or Psalm 106. Abraham places faith in God as one capable of keeping His promises. Phinehas acts upon God's law and brings punishment upon evildoers, and as a result is rewarded. The righteousness he receives is, however, defined in the context quite differently than what we have in Genesis 15:6. Phinehas was already a man of faith, and his jealous for the glory of God resulted in his receipt of a "covenant of peace" and and "covenant of a perpetual priesthood." This was not Phinehas's initial encounter with God or with faith in Him.

Now it is clear just why Psalm 106:31 is so problematic: it states Phinehas performed a good work, and that good work was credited as a righteous action. More importantly, this means Phinehas was justified by a work, rather than by faith alone.

Notice that White and Murray are perfectly aware of this "dilemma," and frankly admit if Paul had appealed to this verse it would have refuted his "faith alone" argument in Romans 4:3 - but they forget it's not Paul that's in trouble but rather their incorrect interpretation of Paul! Their only chance at escape is spinning the issue, making all sorts of unsubstantiated and ultimately irrelevant claims, such as (a) saying the "righteousness" mentioned in Psalm 106:31 is "ethical" rather than "legal" as in Paul, (b) that Psalm 106 was not dealing with justification while Paul was, (c) that Psalm 106 was speaking of the good works that come after justification as the fruit of faith, (d) that there was "no promise" mentioned in Psalm 106:30f (recounting the event of Numbers 25:1-12), and (e) that this was not Phinehas' first encounter with God because he "was already a man of faith."

All those claims are nothing more than lame and desperate excuses. It's one big ad hoc claim that Psalm 106 cannot possibly be speaking of justification. White's additional claims are just as unfounded (for there is a promise made to Phinehas here, and Genesis 12 and Hebrews 11:8 show us Genesis 15:6 was not Abraham's first encounter with God).

Throughout all that smoke, not once did they focus upon the fact the same Greek phrase (not just the same word or two!) was used, and that grammar demands the same phraseology have the same meaning. Of course, if there is an exception here, the burden (and in this case a heavy one) is upon the Protestant to show this (which they've come nowhere close to doing). 

Even if Psalm 106:31 was not speaking on justification, not once did White or Murray (nor any other Protestant) entertain the thought that if "it was credited as righteousness" means Phinehas work was counted as a righteous act that maybe - just maybe - it could mean Abraham's faith was credited as a righteous act as well. This 'minor detail' was conveniently ignored, but for the informed individual, we know why.

Most ironically, these Protestants violate their very rules of interpretation that their Westminster Confession of Faith lays down so firmly:
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. (Ch 1:9)
If Psalm 106:30f doesn't fit this instruction, I don't know what does. At the end of the day, it is beyond a doubt that the phraseology and meaning of Psalm 106:30-31 powerfully and decisively refutes the Protestant interpretation of Romans 4:3, which Sola Fide rests upon.

45 comments:

steelikat said...

...All sorts of unsubstantiated and ultimately irrelevant claims, such as (a) saying the "righteousness" mentioned in Psalm 106:31 is "ethical" rather than "legal" as in Paul, (b) that Psalm 106 was not dealing with justification while Paul was, (c) that Psalm 106 was speaking of the good works that come after justification as the fruit of faith, (d) that there was "no promise" mentioned in Psalm 106:30f (recounting the event of Numbers 25:1-12), and (e) that this was not Phinehas' first encounter with God because he "was already a man of faith."

I don't see why you think those claims are irrelevant. If White's theology is correct, the claims must be true. If the claims are untrue, it means White's theology is at least not entirely correct and yours may be correct. If that isn't relevancy I don't know what relevancy is.

a) "...the 'righteousness' mentioned in Psalm 106:31 is "ethical" rather than 'legal' "

No one can doubt that it is ethical. Whether it is also legal in addition to being ethical is the essence of the difference between White's and your conception of what justification means. You and White are operating from different paradigms and naturally it will seem to White that the burden of proof is on the person attempting to use a single verse to demolish the established dogma of forensic justification and it will seem to you that as long as any verse can be understood to contradict his "peculiar ideas" the Roman Catholic dogma of justification is preserved.

b) ...that Psalm 106 was not dealing with justification while Paul was...

White's support was to appeal to the established dogma of forensic justification. Of course I understand you don't see it as established dogma but I'm reminding you for Protestants it is and if you are going to be convincing you are going to have to come up with a very substantial argument not just quote a verse here and there and assert that the Protestant understanding of the verse isn't "substantiated." Of course the Protestant interpretation of this or that verse won't be substantiated from your point of view since adequately substantiating it will shift your paradigm and convert your to Protestantism. If you are to be convincing to anybody except yourself, however, you need to come up with a compelling argument to show that the Psalm is asserting justification in the soteriological sense.

c) that Psalm 106 was speaking of the good works that come after justification as the fruit of faith...

Here you finally have a good point. This seems to be an assumption on White's part. It needs a supporting argument.

d) that there was "no promise" mentioned in Psalm 106:30f (recounting the event of Numbers 25:1-12)

Numbers does not say that God gave a promise to Phinehas prior to his doing the righteous act. The promise came after he already had done it. Abraham was given a promise and that which justifies him is his subsequent response of faith in that promise. Therefore White's distinction between faith and works stands unrefuted by the Psalm.

e) e) that this was not Phinehas' first encounter with God because he "was already a man of faith."

You are right that White does not seem to have proven this assumption.

Nick said...

Hello Steelikat,

I could have worded things a bit better. When I said "unsubstantiated AND irrelevant claims," the point I was making was that there were two types of probelmatic claims being made, unsubstantiated ones on one hand and irrelevant claims on the other.

For example, whether the righteousness in Ps106 is "ethical" or "legal" is NOT "irrelevant" - and I never intended to convey this. It is, however, an unsubstantiated claim to say Ps106 is ethical since neither White nor Murray could back up that claim other than to say it would contradict (their reading of) Paul.


You said:
"You and White are operating from different paradigms and naturally it will seem to White that the burden of proof is on the person attempting to use a single verse to demolish the established dogma of forensic justification"

I agree that we are operating from different paradigms, but you're wrong to say there is an "established dogma of forensic justification" if you mean one solidly supported by Scripture. For example, you'll often see in my posts that the "established dogma of forensic justification" is actually a grand assumption that forces all other texts to conform to it, rather than have itself be built upon them.

The way Protestants approach the "established dogma of forensic justification" is no different than how a Mormon approaches the "established dogma of the Book of Mormon". Both begin by assuming the dogma and dumping the burden of proof against it on their opponents.

The "ethical" versus "legal" distinction is mostly fictitious, and any honest student of Scripture will easily see this distinction as mostly invented to try and explain away 'difficult texts'.


You said:
"Here you finally have a good point. This seems to be an assumption on White's part. It needs a supporting argument."

I'm glad you see some reasonable claims from my perspective and thus can see why I said "unsubstantiated" claims. That assumption on White's part is clearly a forced response in light of the fact he presupposes "the established dogma of forensic justification".


You said:
"Numbers does not say that God gave a promise to Phinehas prior to his doing the righteous act."

My point was that this criteria was irrelevant. Nothing demands that a text must be speaking of a promise to be speaking of justification. Psalm 32 that Paul quotes in Romans 4 doesn't mention a promise. Thus, this 'criteria' is purely ad hoc.


You said:
"You are right that White does not seem to have proven this assumption."

Again, thank you for seeing my side of this story. It should at least raise the question why White would make such a claim that is not only false, it's an ad hoc criteria. From your perspective, it's an odd claim to make and worth thinking about, from my perspective it's all part of the same theme of creating as much distance from Ps 106 as possible since a 'plain reading' of the text blatantly contradicts his "established dogma".

De Maria said...

I see it a bit differently, but I think we get to the same place. Genesis 15:6 is a narrative comment.

Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

In discussions with Protestants, they invariably read this as a command from God. They understand that God spoke and His Word is effective. Therefore, at that very moment, Abraham was justified.

In fact, I understood it that way until very recently. When I suddenly saw this verse in a different light:

James 2:21-24
21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

And St. Paul says something very similar. Lets look at his comment on the matter:
Romans 4 22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Notice the word, "therefore"?

That means that St. Paul just finished explaining why it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Why was it?

Well, St. Paul says it was because: 17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
18Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:
20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

That is why, according to St. Paul, it was accorded to Abraham righteousness. Because he acted upon his belief. His belief, his faith was strong and although Abraham was aged and his wife aged and barren, he put his faith to work and united himself to his wife that she might bear a son.

Nowhere does Scripture say that Isaac was a child born outside the normal human process. Therefore, I say again, THEREFORE, it was credited to him righteousness.

And therefore, Genesis 15:6 is a narrative commentary interposed by Moses to begin to explain why Abraham WOULD BE justified when he took his son, his only son, to the mount to be sacrificed to God. And there, the Word was fulfilled as St. James explains.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

Since we're on the topic, I'd like to say that when St. Paul said, “justified by faith apart from works”, Luther interpreted that as faith “alone”: But that s not what St. Paul meant. St. Paul was teaching the justification which occurs in the Sacraments.

Let me explain:

St. Paul taught the Catholic Teaching that only those who do the works of the Law are justified:

Romans 2:13
Romans 2:13
King James Version (KJV)
13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

In Catholic Teaching, we are justified by faith and works. That is the foundation and root of all justification. Faith is expressed and perfected in works.

However, the Church also teaches that we are justified in the Sacraments where we are washed in sanctifying grace. Especially Baptism. Sacraments are God’s mighty works. We don’t do anything except submit to His works in the proper dispostion, which is that of faith.

This is the Justification by faith apart from works to which St. Paul referred.

The process is evident in every semester of RCIA. By faith, we seek the Lord and study to show ourselves approved. Only those who undergo this process are then JUSTIFIED in Baptism.

Lets take another example.

St. Paul says:
Galatians 2:16

King James Version (KJV)

16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Notice how he repeatedly says here, "faith OF Christ". Not "by faith IN Christ". He is not speaking about believing in Christ. That is assumed. He is speaking about the observance of the rituals instituted by Christ in His new way. He is speaking of the Sacraments.

And this, is Luther's error. He did not connect the Sacramental teaching of St. Paul. Luther recognized the Sacraments and he recognized the perfection of the sinner in the justification by faith. But denied the merit of that expression of faith in good works without which no one will be saved. And he applied St. Paul's teaching wrongly across the board. He failed to recognize the difference between the justification by faith and works that occurs as a result of the effort of the man of God which is illustrated by St. Peter below:

2 Peter 1:4-10

King James Version (KJV)

4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.

And that justifcation by faith apart from works which occurs by the action of God in the Sacraments:
Titus 3:5
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

What do you think?

Sincerely,

De Maria

steelikat said...

Nick,

"but you're wrong to say there is an "established dogma of forensic justification" if you mean one solidly supported by Scripture. For example, you'll often see in my posts that the "established dogma of forensic justification" is actually a grand assumption that forces all other texts to conform to it, rather than have itself be built upon them. "

It is an established dogma for those on the other side of the Reformation divide than you, they are many of them intelligent, learned, and honest, and they study the bible and see scripture chock full of forensic justification, from the protoevangelium onwards.

"That assumption on White's part is clearly a forced response..."

I don't know about "forced response" but I would agree that it cannot be asserted as fact without a scriptural supporting argument more impressive than "the Psalm must be speaking of good works that come after justification as the fruit of faith because that assumption best fits my paradigm." The paradigm itself is the bone of contention if White is talking to Roman Catholics.

"Nothing demands that a text must be speaking of a promise to be speaking of justification."

I can't speak for White, but it seems unlikely that he was saying that a text must explicitly mention a promise to be speaking of justification. Rather, I think he must have been elaborating on a distinction between kinds of justification, and how the kind spoken of in the Psalm is different than the kind spoken of in Romans.

"The "ethical" versus "legal" distinction is mostly fictitious, and any honest student of Scripture will easily see this distinction as mostly invented to try and explain away 'difficult texts'."

I predict than when you are older you will come to understand that those who seem intelligent yet somehow disagree with what seems so obvious to you are not necessarily lying. Anyway, if two propositions literally contradict each other (for example "a man is justified by faith and not by works" vs. "a man is justified by works and not by faith alone") either there really is a contradiction or there is a distinction in meaning between two senses of a term. The bible believer will of course confidently and unhesitatingly choose the latter interpretation when dealing with two seeming-contradictions found in scripture, since he is confident that scripture is infallible.

"It should at least raise the question why White would make such a claim that is not only false, it's an ad hoc criteria. From your perspective, it's an odd claim to make and worth thinking about.."

I wouldn't say the claim is false or odd. But I think you are probably right that it is a nothing more than an ad hoc assumption, based on White's paradigm, otherwise he would have made some effort to support the claim. That being said, the assumption is reasonable from his point of view but you have a different paradigm and would have different assumptions.

The way I would sum up my main point is that since the bone of contention is something so fundamental as a paradigm of scriptural interpretation, a verse or two cannot be trotted out triumphantly as an earthshaking discovery that finally settles the centuries-long debate between both sides in the Reformation divide. Doing something like that does not take the question or the questioners seriously.

De Maria said...

Steelikat said:
...a verse or two cannot be trotted out triumphantly as an earthshaking discovery that finally settles the centuries-long debate between both sides in the Reformation divide. Doing something like that does not take the question or the questioners seriously.

I disagree. I think it is one phrase, justification by faith apart from works, which caused the divide in the first place. Romans 3:28 is a very good example. Although St. Paul used that phrase or something similar, very often.

And that phrase is that which Luther interpreted to mean justification by faith "alone".

As I mentioned above, I believe when St. Paul used that phrased, he was referring to that justification which occurs in the Sacraments. Especially Baptism.

Anyway, that means that correcting the understanding of that one phrase in a few verses, should correct the problem. At least, that's my theory.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Nick said...

Hello De Maria,

Thanks for your input. I have noticed that as well, as have other Catholics. James 2:23 seems to take Genesis 15:6 as a prophecy that's fulfilled in Genesis 22. As far as justification goes though, even if Genesis 22 was a sort of 'capstone' of Abraham's faith, there had to be a sense in which he was justified at Genesis 15:6 and years prior (Galatians 3:8).

As for your second post, I agree that Luther misunderstood "works of the Law" in Romans 3:28 to mean "any and all works," thus (logically) reducing to Faith Alone. However, the "works of the Law" are not referring to all other works, only the 613 Mitzvot, which did not include things like Baptism.

Interestingly enough, Luther didn't put Baptism in the works category, that was done by Calvinists. Luther, like Catholics, saw no conflict between Baptism and faith. But details like this didn't make his arguments as strong as Calvin's. In Luther's favorite writing of all time, his Small Catechism, which is still a standard piece of Lutheran theology today, explicitly says that Titus 3:5 is speaking of Baptism. Of course, Titus 3:5 is also speaking of justification (see verse 7), so again there is a problem for Protestants.

Nick said...

Steelikat,

I agree that Sola Fide is an established dogma from the (informed) Protestant end. But I'm inviting Protestants to have a second look because such is in reality by no means 'established' to the rest of Christendom, nor Christian history. My apologetics efforts are aimed primarily at getting Protestants to see just how little evidence and weak of a case there really is for Forensic Justification.

Almost every discussion collapses into a special reading of Romans 4:3-5, meaning it's really about how one decides to read three verses of Scripture in total isolation to the rest of the Bible.

From the Catholic perspective, there are no such texts like Psalm 106:30f, because our theology can address them head on without assumptions or special pleading. I'm not expecting a Protestant to read Psalm 106:30f and convert the next day, but I am expecting the Protestant side to stop and ask themselves if maybe the Catholic side is onto something, since Psalm 106:30f certainly doesn't square with how they're interpreting "credited as righteousness". Such will certainly get the ball rolling, and in my experience, the more informed Protestants know all too well what happens when they concede even an inch to the Catholic side...

De Maria said...

Nick said...
Hello De Maria, 

Thanks for your input. I have noticed that as well, as have other Catholics. James 2:23 seems to take Genesis 15:6 as a prophecy that's fulfilled in Genesis 22. As far as justification goes though, even if Genesis 22 was a sort of 'capstone' of Abraham's faith, there had to be a sense in which he was justified at Genesis 15:6 and years prior (Galatians 3:8)….


Indeed, he was justified many times. And that goes towards Catholic Teaching:
He that is just, let him be justified still;[54] and, Be not afraid to be justified even to death;[55] and again, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?[56](Trent 6, Ch X)
As for your second post, I agree that Luther misunderstood "works of the Law" in Romans 3:28 to mean "any and all works," thus (logically) reducing to Faith Alone. However, the "works of the Law" are not referring to all other works, only the 613 Mitzvot, which did not include things like Baptism.
This is a point of disagreement I have with most Catholics. I believe he did mean all works, as is exemplified in Titus 3:5. There he says, "no righteous works". In another place (Romans 4:2) he simply says "not by works". Therefore he means "any and all works" and he is right. It is Catholic Teaching:
...because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. (Trent 6, Chapter VIII).
It is also logical. We don't justify ourselves. God justifies us:
The causes of this justification are:
the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and life everlasting; the efficient cause is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies[31] gratuitously, signing and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,[32] the meritorious cause is His most beloved only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies,[33] for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,[34] merited for us justification by His most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father, the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith,[35] without which no man was ever justified finally, the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind,[36] and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills,[37] and according to each one's disposition and cooperation.(Trent 6, Ch. VII)
Notice that we nor are works are ever mentioned as causes of justification. We are justified "according" to our disposition, which is the equivalent of faith. But we do not cause our justification.
Interestingly enough, Luther didn't put Baptism in the works category, that was done by Calvinists. Luther, like Catholics, saw no conflict between Baptism and faith. But details like this didn't make his arguments as strong as Calvin's. In Luther's favorite writing of all time, his Small Catechism, which is still a standard piece of Lutheran theology today, explicitly says that Titus 3:5 is speaking of Baptism. Of course, Titus 3:5 is also speaking of justification (see verse 7), so again there is a problem for Protestants.
Indeed, a great problem. They have misunderstood St. Paul from a-z.
Sincerely,
De Maria

steelikat said...

" I'm not expecting a Protestant to read Psalm 106:30f and convert the next day..."

I would hope you would not think that, because to think that would be to give credit to a methodology of understanding the bible that takes a single verse from a text whose literary genre (psalms in general) does not encourage us to read it as one would read a creedal statement of faith, notices that the verse not only does not contradict RC dogma but must be taken as strong support of RC dogma by anyone who anachronistically reads into the bible a practice of interpreting univocally and technically all words that are also technical theological terms, and proceeds to conclude and to assert that any of one's readers not having a simple and pure enough heart to follow one's interpretive lead must be deceiving at least himself.

Since you say you are not doing that I must assume you see that there are a lot of Protestants who if they had taken your article seriously would simply protest that they dont take our Lord's counsel to be simple and pure of heart to mean being simple of mind.

I am happy that the triumphalism of your article and the comments that those who disagreee with you must be dishonest were cheerful self-mockery and I think its great that you dont take yourself too seriously but now I wonder what parts exactly of your article you would want your reader to take seriously.

De Maria said...

steelikat said...
" I'm not expecting a Protestant to read Psalm 106:30f and convert the next day..."

I would hope you would not think that, because to think that would be to give credit to a methodology of understanding the bible that takes a single verse from a text whose literary genre (psalms in general) does not encourage us to read it as one would read a creedal statement of faith,....seriously but now I wonder what parts exactly of your article you would want your reader to take seriously.


Wow! You sure are reading a great deal into a simple statement!

It is a far cry from saying:
I'm not expecting a Protestant to read Psalm 106:30f and convert the next day...

and

I don't expect them to take my article seriously.

Methinks the lady does protest too much. Are you afraid that Protestants who read this article will convert to Catholicism? What is the reason why you object so much to Nick's article?

If, as you claim, it is not an important finding, then why should anyone care that he exercised his right of free speech? Why do you seek to discourage him?

Sincerely,

De Maria

steelikat said...

De Maria:

"Methinks the lady does protest too much. Are you afraid that Protestants who read this article will convert to Catholicism?"

Of course I am. After all, the article contains a biblical discovery that is one of the most devastating verses for Sola Fide in the whole Bible! The psalm hits the Protestant where he least expects it! Only a tiny minority of Protestants are even aware that the psalm exists, and those Protestants who do know it exists keep it under tight wraps!

How could I not be afraid?!

Nick said...

Hello De Maria,

I certainly agree with Trent that all "works" are excluded from justification in the sense they come from us, but this includes even faith, baptism, etc. In regards to Paul though, I believe it can be solidly shown that the "works" he has in mind is simply the 613 Mitzvot, otherwise his argument overall wouldn't make sense. For example, if Paul was speaking of works in general, then his comments in verse 9-12 would not make sense about Abraham being circumcised after he believed in Gen 15:6, for his argument would flop if someone appealed to any good work of Abraham prior to Gen 15:6. I've written about this various times, but I'm also writing about it in the near future as well.


Steelikat,
I can understand your frustration, but my original argument remains valid, and you've at least implicitly affirmed this by admitting White makes some significant assumptions that he had no business making. The reason is because he's forced to explain away the difficulty. On the flip side, the Catholic interpretation yields no difficulty at all.
Now, which is the side seeking to base their beliefs on Scripture here? The side that sees "credited as righteousness" mean the exact same thing in Ps 106 and Gen 15, or the side that goes to great lengths and grand assumptions to claim there is no way they can mean the same thing?

steelikat said...

Nick,

Your "original argument" or rather, your original comical assertion, is that you had made the earth-shaking discovery of a psalm, long hidden by Protestants and that most Protestants were not even aware existed, that if any Protestant discovered would prove clearly to him the doctrine of justification by faith which he had up until that point found clearly taught by the gospels and Pauls epistles was in fact wrong. You did not explain how this would happen except to "point out" that David sang that Phinehas's actions "were credited to him as righteousness," with koine greek lyrics containing precisely the same phrase that Paul prosaically used in an entirely different context in some of his discussions of justification by faith and not works.

Thats what you originally "argued."

Later in a comment you backed off from this argument. I assumed that you were either telling me that your original article was largely self-mocking satire or that you reread it and were embarrassed by it. Now I dont know what to think. You are right that I am frustrated and if you really understand my frustration you'll alleviate it by explaining yourself.

btw, I hope you dont think that when I pointed to deficiencies in James White's argument I was thereby praising your argument or suggesting that your árticle contains an argument that I am able to discern. If you think you really do have an argument I suggest you try to make it more clearly and leave out the self-mocking bluster which just makes it more confusing.

Nick said...

I never claimed to make an earth shaking discovery, only that I was pointing out one that was underused.
To prove this, I stated the minority of Protestants who knew about it had a tendency to sweep it under the rug, which woulnd't make sense if I just discovered it in recent history.

I believe it is a text few Protestants are aware of, and if you consult most books and articles on Sola Fide by Protestants, the verse wont be mentioned.

I've not changed any of my arguments, nor have I suggested they were satire or that I made an embarrassing blunder. To my memory, the only individual who had some explaining to do was White, whom we both agreed made some unsupportable assumptions.

I don't think it's out of line to say this verse will continue to be swept under the rug. It's one of those verses that if people were aware how the Catholic was utilizing it in a Scripture-interprets-Scripture manner, they'd likely grant the Catholic side some credence, which is bad news for the Protestant side that claims the Bible is abundantly clear in favor of Protestant distinctives.

De Maria said...

steelikat said...

Of course I am. After all, the article contains a biblical discovery that is one of the most devastating verses for Sola Fide in the whole Bible! The psalm hits the Protestant where he least expects it! Only a tiny minority of Protestants are even aware that the psalm exists, and those Protestants who do know it exists keep it under tight wraps!

How could I not be afraid?!


It shows in your responses. Be not afraid. The Catholic Church is the True Church and any Protestant who converts will be in a better place.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

Nick said...
Hello De Maria,

I certainly agree with Trent that all "works" are excluded from justification in the sense they come from us, but this includes even faith,


Agreed.

baptism,

That is not Catholic Teaching. Baptism is the Work of God. God justifies us in Baptism. Baptism actually effects the pouring of the Holy Spirit into our souls, cleansing our sins away and regenerating and renewing the man of God.

etc. In regards to Paul though, I believe it can be solidly shown that the "works" he has in mind is simply the 613 Mitzvot, otherwise his argument overall wouldn't make sense. For example, if Paul was speaking of works in general, then his comments in verse 9-12 would not make sense about Abraham being circumcised after he believed in Gen 15:6, for his argument would flop if someone appealed to any good work of Abraham prior to Gen 15:6. I've written about this various times, but I'm also writing about it in the near future as well.

It is true that circumcision is the example which he uses. But circumcision is not one of the so called, "Mitzvot" or "ordinances". It is the sign of the covenant of Moses. If it is, it is the greatest of the Mitzvot, because without it, one is not a member of the Old Testament Covenant.

But anyway, although St. Paul uses it as an example, he does not thereby restrict the concept to that one type of work. In Titus 3:5, he says "no righteous work". And obviously, all the works of mercy and all the Commandments are examples of righteous works.

Faith itself being a righteous work.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

Hi Nick,

Here's St. Paul's message which I think is being misunderstood by many.

First, St. Paul does not deny the efficacy of faith and works:

Galatians 5:6
King James Version (KJV)
6For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

In fact, he equates faith and works to the keeping of the Commandments:
1 Corinthians 7:19
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

And when he says, "the law", he doesn't mean the "Mitzvat", he means the Commandments:
Romans 2:13
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

But he also distinguishes between being justified by the Commandments and being justified by the mercy of God. Take this one for instance:
Romans 3:20
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The Mitzvat does not bring the knowledge of sin. The Commandments do that:
Romans 7:8
But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

Romans 3:20
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

1 John 3:4
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Therefore, the Commandments reveal to us that which is sin. We, who because of faith in God detest our sins will repent of them and begin to live according to the Commandments of God. Those who do so will be justified by God. Let me illustrate.

Suppose that I commit a grievous sin and I stand in the middle of the street and ask God to forgive me. Will my simple request assure me of my being forgiven (i.e. justified by God)?

I hope you agree with me that the answer is, "no". Only the Sacraments have the power to assure one's justification if one submits to them with the proper disposition.

Another example:

Suppose that I ask for forgiveness and I add to my actions, not just prayer. I might say, "to show my repentance, I will crawl to the altar until my knees are bloody." Will that wash away my sin? Again, no, only the action of the Holy Spirit will wash away my sin.

No matter what I do, no matter what righteous work, nothing will wash away my sins but the action of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

But if, first, I do not do the righteous works which God commands, God will not justify me (Romans 2:13).

That is the distinction which St. Paul is making which Luther misunderstood and called faith alone.

Sincerely,

De Maria

John Thomson said...

Hi Nick

I hesitate to comment for this is a topic you and I have discussed before. Sufficient to say I have no problem with seeing this 'justification' of Phineas with James' sense of a man of faith justified by works.

James, of course, assumes a prior faith; works demonstrate the reality of this faith.

Stevo said...

Suppose Ps. 106:31 refers to Phinehas' soteriological justification.

According to the RCC, soteriological justification can be instrumentally caused by baptism, repentance or through works which increase justification.

So, Phinehas' work was either baptism, repentance or a work which increased his justification.

Now, if we assume that this phrase means the same thing as Paul's use of it in Romans 4:3, something interesting comes up.

Rom. 4:23-25, "Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification."

So, your interpretation, Paul and Ps. 106:31 are speaking about the same kind of justification (whether that caused by baptism, repentance etc.)

Just thought this was worth mentioning.

De Maria said...

Stevo said...
Suppose Ps. 106:31 refers to Phinehas' soteriological justification.


Soteriological justification? Is that redundant? Or do you mean the justification which is necessary for salvation by Christ?

According to the RCC, soteriological justification can be instrumentally caused by baptism, repentance or through works which increase justification.

Trent 6, Chapter VII:
.... the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith,....

Those who repent and do good works worthy of repentance will be justified. But they are not the cause of the justification. God is the cause.

So, Phinehas' work was either baptism, repentance or a work which increased his justification.

It wasn't baptism. Baptism came with Christ.
It wasn't repentance. He didn't repent of sin but was zealous for God's glory.

So it was another work which pleased God.

Now, if we assume that this phrase means the same thing as Paul's use of it in Romans 4:3, something interesting comes up.

Let's compare the two:

Psalms 106:31And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.

Romans 4:3
King James Version (KJV)
3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Now, the more we examine this verse, the more Catholic it sounds. Look, he is counted righteous unto all generations. That sounds as though God has justified him based upon his work.

But more, let's look at the original action:
Numbers 25:
13And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.

and so we have Phinehas not only atoning for his own sin by his action but also atoning for all of Israel.

Rom. 4:23-25, "Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification."

Yes. Compare to Numbers 25:13.

So, your interpretation, Paul and Ps. 106:31 are speaking about the same kind of justification (whether that caused by baptism, repentance etc.)

Just thought this was worth mentioning.


Not quite. Baptism is the Work of God. Wherein, God washes the faithful one of his sins and renews him unto eternal life. Baptism is more like God's promise to Abraham:
Hebrews 6:15-18
King James Version (KJV)
15And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

16For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

17Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

18That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Now God has promised us a greater and more wonderful promise:
Acts 2:38
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

And we believe Him and are thus saved:
Titus 3:5
King James Version (KJV)
5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Sincerely,

De Maria

steelikat said...

Nick,

"I believe it is a text few Protestants are aware of, and if you consult most books and articles on Sola Fide by Protestants, the verse wont be mentioned."

And why would it be? Obviously books on the topic of sola fide iare going to deal mainly with the scriptural passages from the gospels and the pauline epistles that teach and explain the doctrine. There would be no reason to expect such a book to take up every verse of every book of scripture.

"I don't think it's out of line to say this verse will continue to be swept under the rug."

I wouldn't call it "out of ine." I would call it incomprehensible, until someone comes up with an explanation of exactly what you mean by "sweeping the verse under the rug" and who you think did it and how they were able to do it. I did double check several Protestant translations of the Bible and the psalm was always included.

Nick said...

Hi everyone, I'm busy at the moment so I'll try to briefly touch upon each of your points:

-De Maria, I agree with most of what you're saying, but I still think it's more accurate to understand "works of the Law" as the Mosaic Law only. Texts like Titus 3:5 don't have a 'faith' vs 'works' dichotomy, and Titus 3:9 is clearly speaking of Judaizer issues.


-John, The main difficulty in that approach is that it is one thing to say dikaioo (justify) can mean 'justify' or 'vindicate', but it is quite another thing to say this same 'option' applies to "credited as righteousness," since there is no evidence this phrase can be taken to mean "vindicate".


-Stevo, I'm not quite sure I understand the argument you are making.


-Steelikat, This verse is unique enough that it's simply irresponsible exegesis to ignore it - especially if the author is going to go into any significant depth on exegeting Genesis 15:6. Outside of Murray's and White's brief encounter with the verse, I know of no Protestant authors or blogs that have addressed Ps 106:30f. It's funny that there isn't a shortage of Protestants writing about James 2...but almost nobody writing about Ps 106:30f. Think about that.

De Maria said...

Nick said...
Hi everyone, I'm busy at the moment so I'll try to briefly touch upon each of your points:

-De Maria, I agree with most of what you're saying, but I still think it's more accurate to understand "works of the Law" as the Mosaic Law only. Texts like Titus 3:5 don't have a 'faith' vs 'works' dichotomy, and Titus 3:9 is clearly speaking of Judaizer issues.


I'll wait til you have time to respond in detail. For one thing, it doesn't matter that the faith and works dichotomy is not in that verse, what matters is that St. Paul both expresses the necessity of works prior to justification (Roman 2:13) and teaches that no flesh is justified by works of the law (Romans 3:20).

Very clearly he is teaching that God justifies those who keep the law, which is very much in conformity to the practice of the Church IRCIA and the Sacraments) and the teaching of the Church in Tradition and Magisterium.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Nick said...

The short answer is this: The works that justify are the works done in the Spirit (Galatians 6:7-9), these are not the same as the works of the Mosaic Law.

Romans 2:13 needs to be read in light of Rom 2:29, where Paul shows it's circumcision of the heart that really counts, which is done only by the Holy Spirit, where as the physical circumcision does not avail anything soteriologically. If the works of the Mosaic Law justified, then physical circumcision and other such laws would be valid exercises of 'good works' by Christians. Christians are held to a higher moral standard than the Mosaic Law, see Mark 10:2-12 for a solid example.

De Maria said...

Nick said...
The short answer is this: The works that justify are the works done in the Spirit (Galatians 6:7-9), these are not the same as the works of the Mosaic Law.


Ok, I think we've reached one point of agreement. The Mosaic Law does not justify anyone. Although, I guess we need a clarification, by Mosaic Law, do you include the Ten Commandments? Or do you simply mean the ordinances?

Now, lets move to the "works done in the Spirit." Which you say "justify". Do you consider any of these a "righteous work"?

Romans 2:13 needs to be read in light of Rom 2:29, where Paul shows it's circumcision of the heart that really counts, which is done only by the Holy Spirit,

I believe that is what I've been saying.

where as the physical circumcision does not avail anything soteriologically.

Correct.

If the works of the Mosaic Law justified, then physical circumcision and other such laws would be valid exercises of 'good works' by Christians.

First, you have compared Rom 2:13 to Rom 2:29.

Romans 2:13 states unequivocally that one must do the works of the Law to be justified. Now, unless you are insinuating that St. Paul changed his mind immediately and contradicted himself in Rom 2:29, he is not including physcial circumcision as one of the works which must be done in order to be justified in verse 13.

Second, in verse 13 and nowhere else, does St. Paul say that works "justify". He always describes them as necessary for justification or for eternal life, but never does he say that they are the instrument of our justification or salvation.

Third, we still need that same clarification in order to advance in understanding this point.

Christians are held to a higher moral standard than the Mosaic Law, see Mark 10:2-12 for a solid example.

In my opinion, the Mosaic Law is the Law of the Commandments. We can see that St. Paul holds the Commandments of God in the highest esteem:

1 Corinthians 7:19
King James Version (KJV)
19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Galatians 5:6
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

According to that description, there is no higher moral standard. Keeping the Commandments is the equivalent of faith working by love.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

The point St. Paul is making is this:

The Jews thought that only those who were circumcised would be justified by God.

St. Paul teaches that only those who keep the Commandments will be justified by God.

In addition, St. Paul also taught that one was not justified automatically by keeping the Commandments. As though one could somehow bypass the Father and cleanse their own soul

But that justification is a gift from God given only to those who kept the Commandments.

Nick said...

The Mosaic Law includes most especially the Ten Commandments, which is why St Paul called the Ten Commandments the "ministry of death" in 2nd Corinthians 3.
When Paul says we must keep the commandments, he's speaking of the Commandments of Jesus.

If the Ten Commandments were strictly binding as a legal code, we'd be forced to celebrate the Sabbath, including by Mosaic Norms. But we don't because the Ten Commandments - as a legal code - are abolished. All they are to Christians are a handy number guide. Christians are called to a higher moral standard than the Ten Commandments, as the Sermon on the Mount and other places teach. Jesus says often, "You have heard Moses say X, but I say X^2"

The works done in the Spirit are the epitome of righteous works, for they are supernaturally good works. If a Pagan gives to the poor, that's a good work, but it merits no eternal reward; but if a Christian in a state of grace gives to the poor, in virtue of this being done in the Spirit, it's a supernaturally good work that increases one's righteousness and merits a greater share of Heaven.
Thus, Romans 2:13 must be taken as the same type of supernaturally good works as Galatians 6:7-9. This is precisely why Paul says Christians "fulfill the law," recognizing it's true meaning, not keep the law as normal (Rom 8:4, 13:8-12).

De Maria said...

Nick said...
The Mosaic Law includes most especially the Ten Commandments, which is why St Paul called the Ten Commandments the "ministry of death" in 2nd Corinthians 3.


Good. Then we agree that we are not justified by keeping even the Ten Commandments.

When Paul says we must keep the commandments, he's speaking of the Commandments of Jesus.

When Jesus says we must keep the Commandments, He means the Ten Commandments.

And when St. Paul says we must keep the Commandments, he also means the Ten Commandments.

If the Ten Commandments were strictly binding as a legal code, we'd be forced to celebrate the Sabbath,

We do celebrate the Sabbath, on a different day than the Jews. We keep the Spirit of the Law, not the letter.

including by Mosaic Norms.

As for the norms, which I call the ordinances, we no longer need to keep those.

But we don't because the Ten Commandments - as a legal code - are abolished.

What do you mean by "as a legal code"?

They will never be abolished by the Catholic Church, they are the Word of God:
2067 The Ten Commandments state what is required in the love of God and love of neighbor. The first three concern love of God, and the other seven love of neighbor.

As charity comprises the two commandments to which the Lord related the whole Law and the prophets . . . so the Ten Commandments were themselves given on two tablets. Three were written on one tablet and seven on the other.27

2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them;28 the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments."29

All they are to Christians are a handy number guide. Christians are called to a higher moral standard than the Ten Commandments, as the Sermon on the Mount and other places teach. Jesus says often, "You have heard Moses say X, but I say X^2"

No sir. The Beatitudes are simply an elaboration upon the Ten Commandments. Just as the Ten Commandments are an elaboration on the Two Great Commandments.

Matthew 22:37-40
King James Version (KJV)
37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

CONT'D

De Maria said...

CONT'D


The works done in the Spirit are the epitome of righteous works, for they are supernaturally good works.

And what does St. Paul say about righteous works ?(Titus 3:5).

If a Pagan gives to the poor, that's a good work, but it merits no eternal reward;

That's a different subject which we need not delve into or this discussion will become too complicated. Suffice to say that St. Paul says:
Romans 2:26-28
King James Version (KJV)
26Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

but if a Christian in a state of grace gives to the poor, in virtue of this being done in the Spirit, it's a supernaturally good work that increases one's righteousness and merits a greater share of Heaven.

Agreed.

Thus, Romans 2:13 must be taken as the same type of supernaturally good works as Galatians 6:7-9. This is precisely why Paul says Christians "fulfill the law," recognizing it's true meaning, not keep the law as normal (Rom 8:4, 13:8-12).

The law is only fulfilled spiritually. As is demonstrated by the lack of justification of the Pharisee at the temple, who kept all the commandments, but exalted himself above men (Luke 18). His keeping of the Commandments did not satisfy the spiritual requirement.

So, St. Paul, in Romans 2:13 was speaking of a spiritual keeping of the law in order to fulfill the requirement for justification.

Sincerely,

De Maria

steelikat said...

Nick,

"This verse is unique enough that it's simply irresponsible exegesis to ignore it - especially if the author is going to go into any significant depth on exegeting Genesis 15:6."

OK but I don't see how the Psalm helps much in that regard since the verse's immediate context insofar as for example the rhetorical point that is being made in the Psalm as compared to Genesis 15:6 is so different. Even the more overarching context is very different, the two books being entirely different literary genres. In order for me to see how it would be valid to use the Psalm to help us interpret the verse in Genesis, I would need an explanation as to how the contexts of the two passages make that so. I presume that serious bible scholars would see it in the same way.

As for using Romans to help us interpret Genesis 15:6, on the other hand--that is valid since Paul let us know he was talking about that verse.

Nick said...

De Maria,

The Mosaic Law is a complete set of moral, ceremonial, and civil laws. The Ten Commandments were at the heart of the Mosaic Law. It cannot be cut apart such that only the moral are kept or only the Ten are kept while the rest are ignored. That's not how that Covenant worked. It was all or nothing. Circumcision was the formal rite into that covenant, which was a pledge that one would adhere to the entire Mosaic Law. Only someone legally bound to keep the Mosaic Law has the legally-binding obligation of keeping the Ten Commandments.

At no time did the Ten Commandments separate themselves from the Mosaic Law and be a stand-alone set of teachings that could be appended to any other covenant. This is confirmed, as I said, by the Sabbath Day commandment, which is not and cannot be reduced to a 'spiritual' commandment of keeping the Sabbath on another day.

Thus, we cannot talk as if the Ten Commandments are legally-required for Christians. We certainly have an obligation to avoid sin under the New Covenant, which includes worshiping only the Trinity, no idols, no adultery, no theft, etc, but that's not synonymous to saying we're keeping the Big Ten.

Even if a Jew or anyone else were able to keep the whole Mosaic Law without sinning, that in itself would not justify them. That's the fundamental error of Protestants, who think the "problem" is that man has to keep the Mosaic Law perfectly to be justified, but since he cannot, he needs Jesus to keep the Law perfectly in their place, and thus receive this "justification by works" via substitution of persons. But in reality, the Mosaic Law never promised eternal life, so keeping it perfectly wouldn't yield that reward. Instead, a totally different covenant offered eternal life, the New Covenant, and one abides in this covenant by faithful obedience to Christ's Commandments.

Nick said...

Steelikat,

I don't buy the argument that the contexts are different enough that they cannot be used to interpret one another. The context of Ps 106 is that of a historical review of Israel's sins, so it's fundamentally historical rather than "poetic". On top of that, Psalm 32 which Paul also quotes as an accessory in Rom 4 would fall victim to your standards, since it doesn't mention the same things as Genesis 15:6 and is a different context.

The Catholic argument is really so simple that no alternatives are plausible: "it was credited as righteousness" means an action was seen by God as an righteous action, and thus worthy of praise. In the case of Phinehas, the righteous action was his zeal; in the case of Abraham, it was his steadfast faith that was seen as a righteous action. Period.

The ramifications of that are plain though: it means the imputation of Christ's Righteousness is literally unBiblical. That's the reason, the only reason, why Protestants cannot afford to interpret Genesis 15:6 as "faith itself was credited as a righteous action", not for exegetical or linguistic reasons, but for apriori ideology.

De Maria said...

Nick,

Concerning the relationship between the Commandments and the ordinances, you are mistaken.

The Ten Commandments are the eternal moral laws of God. That is why He wrote them with His on finger on a slab of stone. To signify their permanence.

The Ceremonial laws are simply the laws of the Covenant, which also embellish and explain many of the requirements of the Ten Commandments and provide for the ceremonial remedies for the sins against them. These laws were abolished when Jesus fulfilled them and the Old Covenant faded away. That is why Circumcision is no longer necessary for the People of God. It was the sign of the Old Covenant. It has been replaced with a greater Covenant and a greater sign, Baptism.

In any case, neither the Commandments nor the ordinances justify nor saved anyone. It is God who justifies. It is God who saves.

However, God will not save anyone who does not keep the Commandments. The Commandments are ETERNAL Laws, God's Word, which He will not change.

Sincerely,

De Maria

steelikat said...

Nick,

You haven't helped me to see why the Psalm is so urgently needed to help us understand the meaning of Genesis 15:6 in spite of the very different context, etc. As far as I can tell you haven't even tried to do so. Therefore I remain unable to see it.

"That's the reason, the only reason, why Protestants cannot afford to interpret Genesis 15:6 as 'faith itself was credited as a righteous action'"

But the apostle Paul himself explicitly told Protestants, in Romans 4:1-8, how to interpret Genesis 15:6. That fact and the fact that Protestants don't believe your blog to be scripture, nor have they even read your blog, must be the reason they look to Paul's explanation rather than interpreting the verse the way you would like them to. How could I think otherwise?

De Maria said...

steelikat said...
Nick,....

But the apostle Paul himself explicitly told Protestants, in Romans 4:1-8, how to interpret Genesis 15:6.....


It was actually St. James who explicitly interpreted Gen 15:6:

James 2:21-24
King James Version (KJV)
21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

De Maria said...

steelikat said...

Nick,

You haven't helped me to see why the Psalm is so urgently needed to help us understand the meaning of Genesis 15:6 in spite of the very different context, etc. …..


I think you need to explain why the context is different.

As St. James explains, Genesis 15:6 was a narrative comment by Moses concerning the justification that would occur in Genesis 22 when God said to Moses:
12… now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

Showing that God was pleased by Abraham's deed.

The context is exactly the same in the case of Phinehas. God was pleased by Phinehas' deed. And it was counted him as righteousness.

That's the context. In both cases, God was pleased by someone's deed and that led to their being judged "righteous".

I hope that helps.

Sincerely,

De Maria

steelikat said...

De Maria,

Yes, James too. Paul and James told Protestants how to interpret the Genesis passage, and their words are scripture.

Nick tried to tell Protestants they ought to interpret the passage his way, but Protestants don't generally read Nick's blog and it isn't scripture, anyway.

"The context is exactly the same in the case of Phinehas."

Obviously you misunderstood my point. Yes, I suppose the context was similar in the sense that both books say things about people. There is no reason, however, to think that when David was singing his psalm he intended to explain the basis of Abraham's soteriological justification, or the subject in general. Read the psalm again, carefully and critically--if you still don't understand what I'm saying I don't know how to help you. In any event, I will assure you most sincerely that you have not given me any reason to think it is necessary or even helpful to read Psalm 106 in order to understand what Genesis 15:6 means. The verses from Romans and James that have been mentioned are an entirely different matter. Their stated explicit intention is to help us to understand the Genesis story.

De Maria said...

steelikat said...
De Maria,

Yes, James too. Paul and James told Protestants how to interpret the Genesis passage, and their words are scripture.

Nick tried to tell Protestants they ought to interpret the passage his way, but Protestants don't generally read Nick's blog and it isn't scripture, anyway.

"The context is exactly the same in the case of Phinehas."

Obviously you misunderstood my point. Yes, I suppose the context was similar in the sense that both books say things about people. There is no reason, however, to think that when David was singing his psalm he intended to explain the basis of Abraham's soteriological justification, or the subject in general.


Perhaps. But God inspired David to sing that which he sung. I'm sure David wasn't even aware that one day many centuries later, his song would help explain why Protestants are wrong. But God knew.

Read the psalm again, carefully and critically--if you still don't understand what I'm saying I don't know how to help you.

The more I read it, the more it sounds like Gen 15 and St. Paul's comment. It is uncanny how similar the language. It is as though God left us a sign post. And If you don't see it, I don't know how to help you.

In any event, I will assure you most sincerely that you have not given me any reason to think it is necessary or even helpful to read Psalm 106 in order to understand what Genesis 15:6 means. The verses from Romans and James that have been mentioned are an entirely different matter. Their stated explicit intention is to help us to understand the Genesis story.

True. To be more precise, the justification of Abraham, because of his faith and works.

Sincerely,

De Maria

steelikat said...

"I'm sure David wasn't even aware that one day many centuries later, his song would help explain why Protestants are wrong. "

I'm sure he wasn't aware of that, but I wonder to whom and in what way you think the Psalm explains why Protestants are wrong. Of course if you believed the Protestants are wrong, the Psalm will seem to you to validate and support that belief. How does it explain to you why Protestants are wrong, though? What do you understand about why Protestants are wrong that you didn't understand before you read the Psalm?

De Maria said...

steelikat said...
I'm sure he wasn't aware of that, but I wonder to whom and in what way you think the Psalm explains why Protestants are wrong.....


The Psalm illustrates a case of justification according to one's deeds. Whereas, Protestants believe in justification by faith ALONE.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Stevo said...

Sorry Nick, I'll try and formalize the objection for clarity:

(1) If the phrase "reckoned as righteousness" means the same thing in Rom. 4:3 and Ps. 106:31, then the word "righteousness" in that phrase means the same thing. [Premise]

(2) If the word "righteousness" in that phrase means the same thing, then the justification Paul says we receive by faith throughout Rom. 4-5 is an increase of justification in someone already justified. [Premise]

(3) The justification Paul says we receive by faith throughout Rom. 4-5 is not an increase of justification in someone already justified. [Premise]

(4) Therefore, the word "righteousness" in that phrase doesn't mean the same thing. [(2), (3), M.T.]

(5) Therefore, the phrase "reckoned as righteousness" doesn't mean the same thing in Rom. 4:3 and Ps. 106:31. [(1), (4), M.T.]

Since this argument is valid, the only way to avoid its conclusions [(4)-(5)] is to deny one of its premises. However, I think you must accept the premises.

(1) should be incontestable since the point of your argument is show that 'logizomai' means the same thing in both texts.

(2) is likewise incontestable. Suppose the word 'righteousness' means the same thing in Ps. 106:31 & Rom. 4:3. Paul says in Rom. 4:23-25 that this righteousness is likewise credited to all who believe. So, whatever it means in Ps. 106, it's the same thing reckoned to all those who believe.

Catholics believe someone is 'justified' either via baptism, repentance or through an act which increases their justification. The first two are not available options when discerning what kind of justification Phinehas is said to received. So, it must be the last. Therefore, it's this kind of justification Paul says we all receive by faith throughout Rom. 4-5.

(3) seems obvious to me. The justification Paul seems to be talking about through these chapters (that is received by faith) seems to be what the RCC defines as the translation from the state of the first Adam to the second. This kind of justification is not the same as the increase of 'justification' spoken of earlier.

So, I take (1)-(3) to be true and therefore this argument to be sound.

Nick said...

Hi everyone,

I've been hit by a bad cold, so I've not been able to keep up as I'd liked. Thus, I'll be brief.


De Maria,
I agree with your overall point, but the detail that the Ten Commandments is separate from the Mosaic Law is something that I don't believe is Biblical nor a claim the Scholastics would accept. The Bible clearly makes the Ten Commadments something given specifically to the Jews as the heart of the Mosaic Law. Notice the Preface and context for the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:1-6, 15, 16b, 22. Notice how it's all centered around a special revelation to Israel. This is the ONLY way 2nd Corinthians3 and Romans 7:6-7 makes any sense.


Steelikat,
I'm not sure what else I can say. The Reformation is literally built upon a special pleading reading of Romans 4:3, which Catholics do not grant because it isn't based on sound exegesis at all. One of the many witnesses that testify against the Protestant reading of Rom 4:3 is Psalm 106:31. Another is Romans 4:18-22. The point is, the informed Protestant sees the "danger" of using Scripture to interpret Scripture in this case: an all too plausible Catholic interpretation. Your appeal to "different contexts" is an ad-hoc argument, never something proven; and this is where you even admitted White was making unsubstantiated claims en route to making his "different contexts" argument.


Stevo,
Your syllogism is not constructed in a way I'd agree with. For one, you're assuming Abraham in Genesis 15:6 was not increasing in justification, when he had to have been given he'd been following God since Genesis 12. Second, and more importantly, you're turning a specific example into a general rule, which isn't Paul's point. The promise Abraham received by faith is not identical to the promise we receive by faith, though the two are directly linked. Abraham became the father of many nations and through his Seed all nations would be blessed...that's not something we're promised. We are promised a share in the fruits of the Seed, which is related, but not the same.

Also, someone can be 'credited with righteousness' either the moment they convert or after they've converted signifying an increase in righteousness. There's no problem here, just the way the term "justify" can signify either. So it's not the equivocation fallacy you've unwittingly set up.

A parallel argument can be made consulting the Protestant view of sanctification. The term 'sanctify' and any equivalent terms can be in reference to initial sanctification and continuing sanctification, without any 'danger' of conflating the two.

De Maria said...

Stevo said...
Sorry Nick, I'll try and formalize the objection for clarity:

(1) If the phrase "reckoned as righteousness" means the same thing in Rom. 4:3 and Ps. 106:31, then the word "righteousness" in that phrase means the same thing. [Premise]


Ok

(2) If the word "righteousness" in that phrase means the same thing, then the justification Paul says we receive by faith throughout Rom. 4-5 is an increase of justification in someone already justified. [Premise]

I believe that is true, but I doubt that most Protestants would. Justification is a process and it begins when one is called. Abraham's justification began in Genesis 12. Catholic doctrine says:

Trent 6, CHAPTER V
...
It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; …
(3) The justification Paul says we receive by faith throughout Rom. 4-5 is not an increase of justification in someone already justified. [Premise]

Yes, it is.

(4) Therefore, the word "righteousness" in that phrase doesn't mean the same thing. [(2), (3), M.T.]

That is what Protestants would argue.

(5) Therefore, the phrase "reckoned as righteousness" doesn't mean the same thing in Rom. 4:3 and Ps. 106:31. [(1), (4), M.T.]

Yes, it does.

Since this argument is valid, the only way to avoid its conclusions [(4)-(5)] is to deny one of its premises. However, I think you must accept the premises.

(1) should be incontestable since the point of your argument is show that 'logizomai' means the same thing in both texts.


Correct.

(2) is likewise incontestable. Suppose the word 'righteousness' means the same thing in Ps. 106:31 & Rom. 4:3. Paul says in Rom. 4:23-25 that this righteousness is likewise credited to all who believe. So, whatever it means in Ps. 106, it's the same thing reckoned to all those who believe.

Correct. What each did, they did because of their faith in God. Faith and works.

Catholics believe someone is 'justified' either via baptism, repentance or through an act which increases their justification. The first two are not available options when discerning what kind of justification Phinehas is said to received. So, it must be the last. Therefore, it's this kind of justification Paul says we all receive by faith throughout Rom. 4-5.

Why is repentance not available for Phinehas? Baptism is a work of God which we submit to because of our faith in God. But repentance is a work of faith which Phinehas had to have before he could please God. So, you'll have to explain, why, a Levite, entrusted with keeping and teaching the Law, would not have repented of his sins?

And yes, he did join his actions to his faith.

(3) seems obvious to me. The justification Paul seems to be talking about through these chapters (that is received by faith) seems to be what the RCC defines as the translation from the state of the first Adam to the second. This kind of justification is not the same as the increase of 'justification' spoken of earlier.


That is not the impression I get. St. Paul is simply explaining that works are necessary before one is justified by God:

Romans 2:13
King James Version (KJV)
 13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. BEFORE one is justified by God.
There is nothing in Romans which says that Abraham was ever "born again" a child of God. And that is the translation which occurs in Baptism.

So, I take (1)-(3) to be true and therefore this argument to be sound.


Unless you can point to a place where St. Paul says that Abraham was "born again", I'd have to say your logic is faulty.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria said...

‪Nick‬ said...
Hi everyone, 

I've been hit by a bad cold, so I've not been able to keep up as I'd liked. Thus, I'll be brief.

Sorry to hear that, get well soon.

De Maria,
I agree with your overall point, but the detail that the Ten Commandments is separate from the Mosaic Law is something that I don't believe is Biblical nor a claim the Scholastics would accept. The Bible clearly makes the Ten Commadments something given specifically to the Jews as the heart of the Mosaic Law. Notice the Preface and context for the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:1-6, 15, 16b, 22. Notice how it's all centered around a special revelation to Israel.

Regardless of that, Jesus Christ founded His Religion upon the Ten Commandments:

2064 In fidelity to Scripture and in conformity with the example of Jesus, the tradition of the Church has acknowledged the primordial importance and significance of the Decalogue.

2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them;28 the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments."29

2072 Since they express man's fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart.

This is the ONLY way 2nd Corinthians3 and Romans 7:6-7 makes any sense.

I don't know what you're talking about there. It makes complete sense to me as I have explained it. I think the question which remains to be answered however is, "which Commandment is not a righteous work? Which beatitude is not a righteous work? (Titus 3:5).

Sincerely,

De Maria