Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One of my BIGGEST finds ever - a Protestant scholar refutes Sola Fide!

In the middle of writing another post refuting Sola Fide, I came across a popular Protestant Commentary that said something I never thought I'd see in a Protestant Commentary.

Presbyterian theologian Albert Barnes wrote a hugely popular Commentary on the New Testament. Though he apparently later on taught some unorthodox Protestant doctrines, his reputation became somewhat tarnished, but his Commentary does not seem to have received much criticism considering it's still widely popular. When I took a look at what he said in regards to Romans 4:3, I nearly fell off my seat. Since his comments are relatively long for this short post, I'll condense it and add my own emphasis (Full Source Here):
Abraham believed God - The faith which Abraham exercised was, that his posterity should be like the stars of heaven in number. This promise was made to him when he had no child, and of course when he had no prospect of such a posterity. See the strength and nature of this faith further illustrated in Romans 4:16-21. The reason why it was counted to him for righteousness was, that it was such a strong, direct, and unwavering act of confidence in the promise of God.

And it - The word "it" here evidently refers to the act of believing. It does not refer to the righteousness of another - of God, or of the Messiah; but the discussion is solely of the strong act of Abraham's faith, which in some sense was counted to him for righteousness. In what sense this was, is explained directly after. All that is material to remark here is, that the act of Abraham, the strong confidence of his mind in the promises of God, his unwavering assurance that what God had promised he would perform, was reckoned for righteousness. The same thing is more fully expressed in Romans 4:18-22. When therefore it is said that the righteousness of Christ is accounted or imputed to us; when it is said that his merits are transferred and reckoned as ours; whatever may be the truth of the doctrine, it cannot be defended by "this" passage of Scripture.

Was counted - ἐλογίσθη elogigisthē. The same word in Romans 4:22, is is rendered "it was imputed." The word occurs frequently in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, the verb חשׁב chaashab, which which is translated by the word λογίζομαι logizomai, means literally, "to think, to intend," or "purpose; to imagine, invent," or "devise; to reckon," or "account; to esteem; to impute," that is, to impute to a man what belongs to himself, or what "ought" to be imputed to him. It occurs only in the following places: Psalm 32:2; Psalm 35:4; Isaiah 10:7; Job 19:11; Job 33:10; Genesis 16:6; Genesis 38:15; 1 Samuel 1:13; Psalm 52:4; Jeremiah 18:18; Zechariah 7:10; Job 6:26; Job 19:16; Isaiah 13:17; 1 Kings 10:21; Numbers 18:27, Numbers 18:30; Psalm 88:4; Isaiah 40:17; Lamentations 4:2; Isaiah 40:15; Genesis 31:16. I have examined all the passages, and as the result of my examination have come to the conclusion, that there is not one in which the word is used in the sense of reckoning or imputing to a man what does not strictly belong to him; or of charging on him what ought not to be charged on him as a matter of personal right. The word is never used to denote imputing in the sense of transferring, or of charging that on one which does not properly belong to him. The same is the case in the New Testament. The word occurs about forty times (see "Schmidius' Concord)," and, in a similar signification. No doctrine of transferring, or of setting over to a man what does not properly belong to him, be it sin or holiness, can be derived, therefore, from this word. Whatever is meant by it here, it evidently is declared that the act of believing is what is intended, both by Moses and by Paul.

For righteousness - In order to justification; or to regard and treat him in connection with this as a righteous man; as one who was admitted to the favor and friendship of God. 
While Barnes says other things here that I did not quote (for the sake of brevity) that could be sufficient to keep him within the realm of Protestant orthodoxy on this matter, what I have quoted ultimately cripples the Protestant attempts to point to Romans 4 as proof for Sola Fide. In regards to what I did quote and highlight, I have been saying these same thing for years (see This Document as one of many examples), but not getting much feedback from Protestants (or even Catholics!). I and a few other Catholics have been striving to point out that the Hebrew and Greek terms popularly translated as reckon, count, impute, etc, speak principally about what something is in itself and thus being treated according to what that object really is. It is a term that has nothing to do with "transferring" or even (graciously) counting something other than what it really is. Now that I found a Protestant theologian who says this in a popular commentary, I see this as confirmation of what I and other Catholics have been saying all along. I would just hope many Catholics reading this get on board and spread the word!


Godismyjudge said...

Barnes issue seems to be with the imputed righteousness of Christ not sola fide. You will find many Arminians taking this same view.

God be with you,

Devin Rose said...


I've been watching your posts on this and found them intriguing. I think the issue is that it is technical and goes over most Protestants' heads. That's not meant as an insult--it would go over most Catholics' heads too--but I still think it is valuable.

Nick said...

Hello GIMJ,

I agree with what you said, but ultimately those things are attached. Arminianism is ultimately a slippery slope to Papism, and only Calvinism holds that off. I can go into more detail if you want. What I can say for now is that the Sola Fide Arminians preach is not what Sola Fide originally meant for the Reformers, particularly John Calvin. More importantly, Barnes goes where hardly any Protestants ever go, including Arminians, and that is examining the Greek word logizomai ("impute") - in fact, he's the only Protestant I've ever found who has done so.

Nick said...

Hello Devin,

It would certainly go over the head of anyone who hasn't discussed Sola Fide, but anyone who has, has heard of the phrase "imputed righteousness of Christ".

This is because the very word "imputation" is what is under the spotlight here, and the results are certainly telling. Imputation is what the entire Reformation hangs upon, prior to even Sola Scriptura. Every single unique Protestant doctrine stems from assuming Sola Fide is true, particularly "imputation" being "plainly taught" in Romans 4.

I believe there is a somewhat of a conspiracy (I hate using that term) among Protestant theologians then and now, because they utterly refuse to examine Logizomai in an open and honest manner. None of them do it, they just act as if nothing is wrong or that it's beyond questioning.

This is seriously one of the biggest issues in all of Protestantism because it's a matter of honest scholarship touching upon the very words of Scripture. It is highly ironic that the side screaming that we need to be faithful to Scripture and know Greek is the same side doing EVERYTHING it can to sweep Logizomai under the rug. Those Protestants who "get it" realize their worst nightmare: the Bible supports Catholicism, not Protestantism!

The folks at Called To Communion are doing a masterful job at getting the average joe up to speed on key theological concepts, often with heavy emphasis on 'philosophy-theology'.
But where I believe I pick up the slack is in regards to my HEAVY emphasis on Exegesis of Scripture, since ultimately the Protestant sees their position as Scriptural and thus doesn't much care about anything else.

I have made it somewhat of a life goal to spread the word on the subject of Logizomai, because it's so huge that it will instrumental in changing the minds of many well educated (typically Reformed) Protestants. If you and other Catholics would spread the word on Logizomai, the noise would become too loud for Protestants to ignore.

Andre said...

Norman Shepherd is another Protestant scholar who teaches against sola fide. His views caused a stir at Westminister Seminary in the early 80s, and eventually, he left the seminary and the OPC.