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Monday, January 30, 2012

7 reasons Protestant anthropology is to be rejected

(If you want to double your effectiveness as a Catholic apologist in 30 minutes, read this article.)

Anthropology refers to the study of human nature in general, but within the context of theology it refers to man's nature as it corresponds to his final goal, his abilities, and the effects of Adam's sin. This subject is indispensable in forming good theology, especially when discussing salvation, because if you get this subject wrong, you'll likely get salvation wrong as well. As an analogy, if a medical doctor fails to understand how the body functions, he will most likely fail to properly diagnose and treat the ailment. Well-informed Catholic theologians have understood this and explained why incorrect anthropology is at the heart of the Protestant Reformation. Luther's decision to reject the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church came ultimately as a result of him severely erring on his view of human nature, and thus turning that into an erroneous view of salvation. From an apologetics point of view, any discussion with a Protestant is bound to fail if you don't understand that each side has issued a radically different "diagnosis" to the "illness" mankind finds himself in after Adam's disobedience. 

The following is a list I compiled with the help of various resources of 7 reasons the Protestant understanding of human nature is severely flawed and even heretical. That might sound harsh, but this specific Protestant error is so severe that even the Incarnation itself is at stake. 

1) Jesus was unable to suffer and die. If Jesus was without sin, why was He able to suffer and die if Adam was originally not able to? As with the other reasons, this has to do with the Nature/Grace Distinction: humanity was originally endowed with special gifts of grace, one of them being the gift of immortality. Immortality is that gift which preserves the body from decaying and eventually separating from the soul (i.e. physical death). As a creature, man cannot naturally (that is by his own human powers) stop himself from being subject to the laws of nature, particularly decomposition, and only such a divine gift could halt that process. When he sinned, Adam lost this grace (along with the others) and immediately started the bodily decay process which ended in physical death. Jesus, even being without sin, chose to forego this gift in order to experience pain and suffering as we do. Because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, they're forced to say immortality was an essential part of sinless human nature, and thus Jesus would not have been able to die. 

2) Faith is Reason. Our created natures are finite, they're limited in their ability to comprehend what is beyond the natural world. Faith is that gift which is able to see beyond creation, to embrace many of the mysteries of God, including the Blessed Trinity. There is no way we could conceive of or deduce various Christians doctrines, especially the Trinity, by philosophy or any such rationalization. We require something extra to 'see' beyond that, and that's the gift of faith (Hebrews 11:1-3). St Augustine gave the analogy of someone with perfect vision still being unable to see in the dark since his eyes are naturally limited in their abilities, but if you add something like a torch, suddenly the eye is enabled to see in the dark. But because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, they must claim this ability to believe in the Trinity is natural to man, which is abominable and reduces faith to merely rational arguments. And if they claim this belongs to sinless nature, then they must claim Jesus required faith, which is likewise abominable. 

3) Adam could bench-press more than Christ. Protestants teach that Adam was given the task in the garden to keep all the commandments perfectly by his own human powers - i.e. without God's assisting grace. Since Adam failed this task, a substitute was needed, and so Protestants teach Jesus had to keep all those in our place, since we're tainted with sin as well. But unlike Adam, Jesus was "full of grace and truth" from the moment of conception (John 1:14), and Jesus had the Holy Spirit come upon Him at Baptism to begin his mission order to "fulfill all righteousness" (Mat 3:13-15). How is this a fair substitution? What Adam had to do by human effort alone, Jesus was called to do with a humanity endowed with "grace and truth" and the Holy Spirit. But because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, this makes Adam's challenge more 'manly' than Our Lord, which cannot be. The only acceptable solution is to conclude Adam's humanity was originally endowed with divine gifts so that he had grace and the Holy Spirit as well, and thus had to originally cooperate with grace in Eden. 

4) Christ "was made sin" - literally - at the Incarnation. If Mary had a fallen "sin nature" as Protestants teach, then what exactly could Jesus have been conceived in if not sin? To suggest Mary's human nature was not passed onto Christ, from the fertilized egg to the nourishing of the fetus to the birth, means the Incarnation didn't happen. But if Mary's humanity was passed onto Jesus, then all She could give Him was Her "sin nature," which is obviously unacceptable. Because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, they're forced to create two human species, one perfect and the other radically corrupted by the fall (i.e. a "sin nature"), and thus conclude Jesus was of a different human species than His Mother, rendering the Incarnation a fiction. With the Nature/Grace distinction, the very notion of "sin nature" becomes impossible, as human nature doesn't change, it merely loses graces, and thus Mary could pass on Her own humanity to Jesus without any way compromising Christ's holiness. (NB: The situation described above was simply to illustrate a real problem. Mary did not in fact suffer the loss of grace, since as a unique intervention in Salvation history, God preserved Her from any stain of sin from the Moment of Conception.) 

5) Luther was roomies with Pelagius... Pelagianism was the heresy that taught man could save himself apart from grace. Though most people think of it as an error that applies only after Adam's sin, the truth is that it applies especially prior to the fall. Pelagius taught this because he saw Adam as originally self-sufficient and thus not needing any divine assistance. This ties in directly with #3 above. Since Adam had no divine gifts to lose, then Pelagius (logically) concluded that nothing damaging befell humanity because there was nothing for Adam to technically 'fall from' (and the alternative option results in the problem described in #4). Because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, they've unwittingly embraced Pelagianism. As described in #3 above, Protestants would even require Jesus to be Pelagian, having to keep the commandments by purely human abilities. 

6) ...and with Mani. Luther was well aware that Adam's sin caused some very real damage to humanity that made Pelagius' conclusion in #5 above unacceptable. But by accepting Pelagius' starting premise, Luther could only conclude that human nature itself became radically corrupted, even sinful. It is from this Protestants frequently speak of man having a "sin nature". It was no accident that when Saint Augustine opposed the Pelagians, he found himself likewise opposing an earlier heresy known as Manichaeanism. In brief, the Manicheans taught that there was a Dualism in the universe, with opposing good and evil forces. The evil forces were principally material things, and thus sin had a literal existence as "stuff", and this only made sense to them because God was wholly good and thus couldn't create evil. Saint Augustine was caught up in this for a time, until some solid Christians transformed his thinking, and the "Aha!" moment is recorded beautifully in his Confessions (Book 7):
For corruption harms, but, unless it could diminish goodness, it could not harm. Either, then, corruption harms not, which cannot be; or, what is most certain, all which is corrupted is deprived of good. But if they be deprived of all good, they will cease to be. For if they be, and cannot be at all corrupted, they will become better, because they shall remain incorruptibly. And what more monstrous than to assert that those things which have lost all their goodness are made better? Therefore, if they shall be deprived of all good, they shall no longer be. So long, therefore, as they are, they are good; therefore whatsoever is, is good. That evil, then, which I sought whence it was, is not any substance; for were it a substance, it would be good. For either it would be an incorruptible substance, and so a chief good, or a corruptible substance, which unless it were good it could not be corrupted. I perceived, therefore, and it was made clear to me, that Thou made all things good, nor is there any substance at all that was not made by God
Just let that sink in. Saint Augustine realized evil is a "diminishing" of something good, not a 'thing' like a black blob. Just as cold is absence of heat and darkness is absence of light, evil is some deprivation of good. But unlike Pelagius in #5 who (rightly) saw nothing for Adam to "fall from," Luther took this conclusion in the opposite direction and said human nature became inherently sinful, which is a resurrection of a Manichean error. Because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, in favor of Luther's view, they've unwittingly embraced Manicheanism along with Pelagianism.

7) Long-distance intimacy with God. In the New Testament, we see what true intimacy with God entails: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39), which includes the Father and the Son (John 14:23). This intimacy is strikingly absent from the Protestant view of Adam, and indeed would contradict it, particularly since Adam would have been walking by the Spirit (cf Galatians 6:7-9). Yet there is no other way Adam could have been created in intimacy with God. Because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, the original intimacy that Adam shared with God had to have been a purely external relationship, not significantly different from that of unbelievers today have, with no opportunity to ever receive the Holy Spirit. 

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For further reading, I strongly recommend listening to the 1 hour lecture by Dr Feingold linked over at the Called To Communion article "Original Justice and Original Sin". You will be a much stronger apologist if you do. This subject needs to be discussed because I find it to be virtually non-existent in most Catholic apologetics resources, yet this was standard Catholic teaching when Thomism was standard in the seminaries.

72 comments:

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>Luther's decision to reject the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church came ultimately as a result of him severely erring on his view of human nature, and thus turning that into an erroneous view of salvation.<<

Luther didn't reject the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. That's a failure to grasp history at its most basic level. Luther's theological anthropology (and that of most of the Reformers) was Augustinian and therefore belongs firmly within the Catholic tradition.

>>From an apologetics point of view, any discussion with a Protestant is bound to fail if you don't understand that each side has issued a radically different "diagnosis" to the "illness" mankind finds himself in after Adam's disobedience. <<

That's true. So what part of "dead in your trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) do you find difficult to diagnose?

>>1) Jesus was unable to suffer and die.<<

I'm not following you here, Nick. I can't think of any Protestants who would deny that Jesus died. Since he died, a fortiori, he was able to. Somehow we got that right with just our Bibles and our brains.

>>If Jesus was without sin, why was He able to suffer and die if Adam was originally not able to? As with the other reasons, this has to do with the Nature/Grace Distinction: humanity was originally endowed with special gifts of grace, one of them being the gift of immortality...<<

And the Bible tells us man lost that immortality when he freely sinned. Jesus, of course, is without sin. But, with respect to his humanity, he is mortal since this is the sort of humanity he took on. "What was not assumed, was not redeemed," and this includes our mortality. Thus Christ was able to die because the humanity he took on was Adam's.

Miguel Sastre said...

>>2) Faith is Reason... But because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, they must claim this ability to believe in the Trinity is natural to man, which is abominable and reduces faith to merely rational arguments.<<

On the contrary, Nick, we believe that we can only know the Trinity because God has revealed the doctrine. That revelation, however, is not irrational, but rather "meta-rational." The Trinity is not against reason; rather it transcends it. If God had not revealed it, we could never have inferred it.

Miguel Sastre said...

>>3) Adam could bench-press more than Christ. Protestants teach that Adam was given the task in the garden to keep all the commandments perfectly by his own human powers - i.e. without God's assisting grace.<<

The problem here, Nick, is that you're defining grace as a supernatural power rather than what it is--namely--God's unmerited (even demerited) favor. Adam and Eve lived in a state of grace and, prior to the fall, they had the natural ability to obey God. Their intellects had not been darkened and their wills had not yet been enslaved to sin. Thus God--in his infinite wisdom--choose the very best example of humanity to represent us all. But even Adam--with all his superior abilities--still sinned. How much more, then, are we prone to sin given how much weaker we are by nature?

Now--as for having been given the task to obey perfectly--well, yes. God wasn't asking him to obey imperfectly, and God was asking him to obey--so it follows that God expected him to obey perfectly. I don't see how that's controversial. As far as obeying "by his own human powers," there's really no getting around that. But once Adam had fallen, he no longer could obey.

>>Since Adam failed this task, a substitute was needed, and so Protestants teach Jesus had to keep all those in our place, since we're tainted with sin as well.<<

This is the Active Obedience of Christ. But try to understand that when we say this, it is always in the context of affirming that we were redeemed not only by his death and resurrection, but also by his life. His entire mission, from incarnation to ascension was a redemptive one.

Unfortunately, many misunderstand this point to mean, "Christ obeyed the law perfectly so we don't have to." But that's not what we're saying. Instead we're saying that Christ obeyed the law perfectly to fulfill it because he knew we never could. The obligation was fulfilled on our behalf. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves. Even Roman Catholics buy into this to some degree. But they argue that they can keep the law so long as they're given the grace to do so. This, however, simply turns grace into an external aid by which man saves himself, which is at least semi-Pelagian.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>> How is this a fair substitution? What Adam had to do by human effort alone, Jesus was called to do with a humanity endowed with "grace and truth" and the Holy Spirit.<<

This betrays a big misunderstanding of both the state of Adam's humanity prior to the Fall and the freedom of God in salvation. You seem to think that God has some sort of apriori obligation to comply with some kind of external standard of "fairness." But it is not for you to judge God's actions as "fair." You're in no place to do that.

That said, the "fairness" standard certainly isn't reciprocal throughout the Three Imputations.

1. First imputation: Adam's sin was imputed to all humanity (including Mary, by the way). This may not seem "fair," but God knew what he was doing in choosing Adam to represent us (as he could do no better until the Second Adam came).

2. Second imputation: God imputed to Christ the sins of all those he came to redeem. Well--that really isn't "fair" either. But I'll take it! Here is where mercy truly triumphs over judgement (James 2:13).

3. Third Imputation: God imputes to his elect the very Righteousness of Christ (Phil 3:9). This too isn't "fair." But once again, if God sovereignly decides to count us righteous on account of his Son--if he "clothes" us in Christ--then we are considered righteous in him (and not in and of ourselves). This is justification.

>>But because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, this makes Adam's challenge more 'manly' than Our Lord, which cannot be.<<

That's horrible reasoning. Nick forgets "Felix Culpa" (O happy Fall.). God had ordained the Fall long before it took place. God used Adam's free decision to create the need for an even greater Redemption that took far more "manly strength" than Adam ever had. How dare you compare Adam's task to tend to the garden to the Second Adam's task to endure the cross. How dare you?

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>4) Christ "was made sin" - literally - at the Incarnation. If Mary had a fallen "sin nature" as Protestants teach, then what exactly could Jesus have been conceived in if not sin?<<

I believe it was Bernard of Clairvaux who exposed this fallacy a long time ago. Your argument is essentially this: If in order for Christ to be born sinless, he had to take his humanity from a sinless being, then Mary must have been sinless herself--hence the need to preserve her from contracting the stain of original sin.

But by a second application of this logic, then Mary's parents would have had to have been immaculately conceived as well.

It is of course arbitrary to posit that God had to intervene by insulating Jesus' humanity from sin by starting with his mother, when any prior ancestor would have done nicely. But of course, God could have just intervened with Jesus himself. Thus we only need posit that there was one Immaculate Conception--Jesus' in the womb of Mary.

>>To suggest Mary's human nature was not passed onto Christ, from the fertilized egg to the nourishing of the fetus to the birth, means the Incarnation didn't happen.<<

By that same logic, Mary could not have been truly human since to suggest that Mary's parents' nature wasn't passed on to her would imply that she wasn't really their offspring or that she wasn't truly human.

Miguel Sastre said...

>>5) Luther was roomies with Pelagius... Pelagianism was the heresy that taught man could save himself apart from grace. Though most people think of it as an error that applies only after Adam's sin, the truth is that it applies especially prior to the fall. Pelagius taught this because he saw Adam as originally self-sufficient and thus not needing any divine assistance.<<

Pelagius conflated natural ability with grace, but he did argue that Adam--prior to the Fall--was already in a state of grace, which is what all orthodox Christians profess. You're arguing for Semi-Pelagianism prior to the Fall--that even then Adam was unable to obey and choose without supernatural grace. But what is your proof for that? It seems to me that the only argument you have is to declare it Pelagian to say that Adam had originally been endowed with the natural abilities of intellect and volition to obey God's commands apart from supernatural assistance, which you're misdefining as "grace."

In fact, Adam got all the "assistance" he needed. He saw God directly (so did not need faith) and he heard it directly from God not to touch a certain tree. But--with clarity of mind and with full consent of the will, he chose otherwise. The question of whether Adam could have done otherwise is, of course, difficult to answer. Yes--from his own point of view. Adam didn't have sin. The prescriptive will of God was that he not sin. But the decretive will of God was that he would sin so that God's even more glorious plans for our redemption could take effect.

>>Because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, they've unwittingly embraced Pelagianism. As described in #3 above, Protestants would even require Jesus to be Pelagian, having to keep the commandments by purely human abilities.<<

That is some very twisted thinking on your part. First, it's not so much that humanity "lost" anything; rather God actively "took away" privileges and abilities that Adam had been endowed with. We had to toil for our food by the sweat of our brow. Labor pains would accompany birth. The inclination of the human heart would be "evil all the time." Man's understanding would darkened and his reasoning futile. We would actively suppress the knowledge of God even though the very heavens declare his existence. And of course--concupiscence. The weakness of not being able to do the good we want, but rather succumbing over and over again to the evil we hate (Romans 7).

Like I said. Luther as an Augustinian. Not a Pelagian. You are very much mistaken, Nick.

Miguel Sastre said...

6) ...and with Mani. But by accepting Pelagius' starting premise, Luther could only conclude that human nature itself became radically corrupted, even sinful.

Yes, as did most every church Father including the great Augustine. Fallen humanity is sinful and radically corrupted. That's basic, Nick.

>>Luther took this conclusion in the opposite direction and said human nature became inherently sinful, which is a resurrection of a Manichean error. Because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, in favor of Luther's view, they've unwittingly embraced Manicheanism along with Pelagianism.<<

That's an old canard. Protestants also affirm that everything God creates is good, including humanity. But that which is good (ontologically) by virtue of participating in being, which God has created, can nevertheless become radically corrupted (spiritually, morally, intellectually, physically, volitionally etc.) Augustine taught this as well and considered the general lot of humanity to be a "massa damnata" due to the effects of original sin. This, however, doesn't mean that we lose our inherent goodness. Even fallen man can do morally good actions. One aspect of God's common grace to his creatures is to restrain evil, thereby preventing us from becoming as evil as we have the potential to become. "If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more your Heavenly Father..." (Matthew 7:11).

Miguel Sastre said...

>>7) Long-distance intimacy with God.. This intimacy is strikingly absent from the Protestant view of Adam, and indeed would contradict it,<<

I don't get it. (Honestly)

>>Because Protestants reject the Nature/Grace Distinction, the original intimacy that Adam shared with God had to have been a purely external relationship, not significantly different from that of unbelievers today have, with no opportunity to ever receive the Holy Spirit.<<

This is the weakest of all your arguments so far. One suspects you offered it only to have "seven" of them rather than six. Think it through and provide some documentation. If you can find Protestants who are saying that God's walking with Adam in the garden was only a cold, externalism, then perhaps your theory would have some merit with respect to those oddballs. But for the rest of us--I think we'd agree with you that God and Adam enjoyed a true intimacy.

Nick said...

Miguel,

I think you've misunderstood my main point. Your theological anthropology is not going beyond surface level where the real issue is.

For example, you mentioned Paul's reference to us being "dead in sin," but you've not defined what "dead" means here. Certainly it doesn't mean physical death, but still: what does it mean to be spiritually dead? That's what you're not addressing. If spiritual death means lacking God's life in your soul, then being spiritually alive is the opposite. If spiritual death means total depravity, then there really cannot be a spiritual life.

Now onto your response to my 7 Reasons:

(1) We all agree Jesus really died. The problem is according to Protestant theological anthropology, was it possible? I say No.
I agree the Bible tells us man lost immortality upon sin, but in what sense anthropologically was Adam immortal? That's what you're not addressing. If immortality is simply a matter of being a sinless human, then Jesus was immortal. When you say "this is the sort of humanity Jesus took on," this implies there are many kinds of humanity, which is obviously a problem. This implies the humanity of Adam wasn't the same as our humanity.
Your only conclusion is to say immortality is not an essential aspect of being a sinless human, which requires affirming the Catholic NGD.


(2) My question here is: Did Adam originally have Faith? If no, then how did he believe in the Trinity?

(3) That Adam had to obey perfectly is not the issue, the issue is that this had to be done by human ability alone. The Active Obedience of Christ (a doctrine thoroughly refuted elsewhere on this site) is a problem here for the reason Christ obeyed perfectly by more than human ability alone. The result is that there is no parallel between Adam and Christ; Adam had an objectively harder task of active obedience than Christ.

The Three Imputations, plainly unbiblical by James Buchanan's admission, are irrelevant here, for that is not how I'm using the term "fair". I am using the term in regards to one-to-one comparison. Adam had to love his neighbor by human ability alone, Christ had to love His neighbor by human ability cooperating with divine assistance. This is where you're totally missing the anthropological aspect of this whole post.

(4) Your claim that Mary's parents would need to be sinless as well has no bearing in this situation since grace isn't hereditary. Again, you're missing the anthropological angle here. Without the NGD, you have a different human species in Mary's womb, which means Jesus did not receive His humanity from Mary.

Nick said...

(5) Correct, Pelagius conflated natural ability with grace, and in THIS SENSE Adam was originally in a 'state of grace', which is just what Luther and Protestants do.

When you say Adam "saw God directly (so did not need faith)," means seeing God directly is a natural human ability - a creaturely ability more precisely, and no creature could see what is supernatural by their created abilities. This is precisely what I meant when I said "Faith IS Reason" in #2 in Protestant anthropology.

Your conclusion for this point is likewise problematic for you're missing the anthrolpological aspect yet again. When you say God "took away" privileges Adam was endowed with, you're not properly located those privileges in the right category (i.e. not essential to human nature). When those things are not gifts endowed on nature, as the NGD states, they're stuck being natural qualities, which means humanity isn't humanity without them. THIS is why Pelagius, after conflating nature and grace, saw nothing for man to fall from, for in "falling" he would cease to be human.

(6) You said "Fallen humanity is sinful," but you're playing fast and loose with terminology and consequently missing the point. If, as you say, everything God creates and sustains in existence is good, then how can humanity be sinful? It can only be sinful in a relative sense, meaning lacking something. Thus in order to be not sinful, again in a relative sense, something must be restored, and that's what salvation is. That's how man being spiritually dead is still human and ontologically good, he simply LACKS God's life dwelling in his soul.

Part of your thoughts indicate you want to accept the NGD, but your other comments don't allow it.

(7) Simple question: was the Holy Spirit originally indwelling in Adam's soul?
If no, then the only relationship Adam could have was an "external" one and infinitely less intimate.
How did Adam and God originally enjoy a "true intimacy" in your anthropology, and how did it differ from the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>I think you've misunderstood my main point. Your theological anthropology is not going beyond surface level where the real issue is.<<

Perhaps you're right. So what exactly is "the real issue" here?

Nick>>For example, you mentioned Paul's reference to us being "dead in sin," but you've not defined what "dead" means here. Certainly it doesn't mean physical death, but still: what does it mean to be spiritually dead?<<

It means fallen man lacks the natural ability to turn toward God in belief and repentance and so be saved. Man cannot respond to the gospel. So if you keep reading Ephesians 2, you'll come to verse 4 where arguably the most important words of all scripture are to be found: "But God." "But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved..." (Eph. 2:4-6)

In other words, God did for spiritually dead sinners what they could not do for themselves. He "made [us] alive." That is, he raised us from spiritual death even as he one day will raise us from physical death.

Granted that the language of "dead" and "alive" are metaphorical--still they correspond to a spiritual reality, which therefore begs the following question:

Can fallen man in his natural state (Eph 2:3 "by nature children of wrath") will his own salvation or even cooperate with grace? If you say yes, then you destroy the metaphor. For then you would have to argue that "dead men"can in deed repent and believe. You would also destroy the metaphor of being made alive by God. If God is the agent who "makes [us] alive," then by adding our "cooperation" to it, you logically would have to admit that God only makes us alive insofar as we agree and consent to be made alive. This, of course, means that it isn't God who makes us alive but God and ourselves who make us alive. And yet in the clearest language of all scripture, God says salvation is "by grace" (which is 100% God's doing) and "not of yourselves" (which is 0% our doing).

That is biblical and Augustinian theological anthropology embraced by many Catholics and Protestants, but not all Catholics (certainly not the Roman variety) and all Protestants (certainly not Arminians).

>>That's what you're not addressing. If spiritual death means lacking God's life in your soul, then being spiritually alive is the opposite. If spiritual death means total depravity, then there really cannot be a spiritual life.<<

Asserted, but not explained. Yes, spiritual death is synonymous with total depravity. Does it follow, however that if there is total depravity that there cannot be spiritual life? How so? It seems to me that Ephesians teaches both realities. Prior to God's intervention ("But God.."), we were spiritually dead. After God's intervention we were made spiritually alive. So it seems that it is possible for a fallen son or daughter of Adam to go from spiritual death to spiritual life by God's grace.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick >>(1) We all agree Jesus really died. The problem is according to Protestant theological anthropology, was it possible? I say No.<<

That's weird, Nick. Because if we all (which includes Protestants) agree that Jesus died, then we all agree that it was possible for him to die, right? So you must be saying that the belief that he was able to die is in fact inconsistent with our beliefs about his humanity. And you seem to do this solely on the grounds that we reject, what you're called the "NGD" (Nature/Grace Distinction.)

Well--let's unpack that a bit. What, exactly, do you mean by the nature/grace distinction? Are you referring to the dictum, "grace builds upon nature?" Well--depending upon what one means by that--I think most Protestants would agree with it. I certainly agree with Thomas on this point--that grace perfects nature. Of course, by "grace" Thomas has bought into the scholastic concept of reified grace rather than the biblical concept of unmerited favor. But, mutatis mutandis, and correcting for the age, I think we can transpose Thomas' categories into something like this: God begins with where you are and brings that to completion (Philippians 1:6). Thus the power of the Holy Spirit (for Protestants) and sanctifying grace (for Thomas) is functionally synonymous with respect to the perfection of nature. As a Protestant, I believe that we are "new creations" in Christ. Does that mean, however, that I believe grace has simply replaced what came before? Obviously not. For we still have what Paul calls "the flesh." The crucial distinction, however, is that he who is in Christ may be "of the flesh," but he is not now "in the flesh." The person "of flesh" is still weak and perhaps is still dogged by old habits from before. (Obviously many of Paul's warnings in his letters are dealing with precisely this phenomenon). But when we say we are no longer "in the flesh," we say that we are living "by the Spirit" and according to his power. This is the long *process* of sanctification by which the Spirit of God conforms us to the image of Christ, completing the good work that he began in us.

So do Protestants reject the NGD? That depends on what you mean by it. Clearly we believe that our fallen nature is in the process of being re-created. So in this sense, the Holy Spirit is perfecting nature, as Thomas argued in the first question of the Summa Theologica. But we reject the idea that grace is simply an elevation of nature or an enablement of nature whereby man is empowered to save himself through cooperation. We reject the concept of grace as an "aide" to self perfection. Ours is a theology of the cross, where by God condescended to come to us--as opposed to a theology of ascension whereby man attains ever greater degrees of spiritual perfection in order to finally attain the beatific vision. That's a medieval error that needs to be brought back into biblical balance.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>I agree the Bible tells us man lost immortality upon sin, but in what sense anthropologically was Adam immortal? That's what you're not addressing. If immortality is simply a matter of being a sinless human, then Jesus was immortal.<<

I'm using "immortal" in the sense of "unable to die." Adam--before the fall--was immortal simply because there was no such thing as death. Death only entered the world after sin. So immortality wasn't a natural "ability" of Adam; rather it was the default condition of Eden at the time. By the way--there was no death for anything at this point. There wasn't even animal predation. The point of the story is to make sin the cause of death's entry into the world.

Nick>>When you say "this is the sort of humanity Jesus took on," this implies there are many kinds of humanity, which is obviously a problem.<<

How so? Are you saying there's not a "before/after" with respect to Adam's humanity? If so, you need to reread Genesis. So clearly Adam prior to the Fall enjoyed abilities and privileges that he and his progeny lacked after the Fall. Read Genesis 6 and Romans 1 to get a "feel" for what happened to our humanity. So yes--we can make a biblical distinction between the quality of human nature that Adam possessed prior to the Fall and that which we all possess after the fact. Why you think that's not the case is what needs to be explained by you.

Nick>>This implies the humanity of Adam wasn't the same as our humanity.<<

If by "same" you mean "the same in every respect," than you are correct. But there is difference in sameness. We all share the same humanity, but we are different in terms of our abilities and natural talents, physical looks, reasoning abilities etc. It seems to me that you're assuming that if we don't have the "exact same" humanity then we must have a "completely different" humanity. I've noticed that you have a penchant for either/or thinking. But think it through, Nick: Being of the same species does not mean we have the exact same traits.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick: >> (2) My question here is: Did Adam originally have Faith? If no, then how did he believe in the Trinity?<<

I don't think Adam did have faith. 1 Cor. 13 reminds us that the greatest of the theological virtues is love. Why? Well, because when we see God face to face, we won't need hope or faith any more. But we'll still need love.

My guess is that pre-fallen Adam had love for God, but did have faith or hope because he was in direct communication with God. As for the specific triune nature of God, Genesis doesn't spell that out for us (though there are hints) so any answer we give with respect to Adam's knowledge of the Trinity could only ever be speculative.

In other words, it's possible that Adam walked with God, but was not yet aware of his triune existence. Just because Adam walked with God does not mean Adam had exhaustive knowledge of God.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>(3) That Adam had to obey perfectly is not the issue, the issue is that this had to be done by human ability alone.<<

But what kind of humanity did Adam possess at this point? Clearly it had not yet been cursed. We can plausibly infer that Adam's intellect was more acute than ours, that his will was stronger than ours, that he was not subject to decay, aging, or any other entropic process. Adam did not experience concupiscence--that is--the weakness of sinful flesh.

Adam enjoyed the favor of God (the state of grace, or "original justice") and was naturally endowed with the faculties needed to do the very things that the law demanded of him.

We, however, living after the Fall, are not naturally able to do what the law commands. So you're comparing apples to oranges I'm afraid.

Nick>> Adam had an objectively harder task of active obedience than Christ. <<

Not at all. Adam was not beset with human weakness. Christ was. He was like us in all things except sin. Also, the task that Jesus was given was of infinite difficulty and so required him also to be infinite (i.e., God). Consider. In order to atone for sins, he had to die. If he had not been human, he could not have died. But in order to atone for the eternal consequences of sin, he himself had to be an eternal being, as only God can save. Thus--in Jesus we see his humanity and divinity, hypostatically united in not only being, but in obedience to the will of the Father. This was both active (in fulfilling the just requirements of the law) and passive ("upon him was the iniquity of us all" Isa 53:6).

To say that Adam's task was "more difficult" than Christ's is both to misunderstand Adam's task and to demean Christ's.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>(4) Your claim that Mary's parents would need to be sinless as well has no bearing in this situation since grace isn't hereditary. Again, you're missing the anthropological angle here. Without the NGD, you have a different human species in Mary's womb, which means Jesus did not receive His humanity from Mary.<<

I simply don't understand your point. Let me ask it this way: If Mary had been conceived in sin like the rest of us, would Jesus' humanity be different than ours?

But consider this truism: Jesus' humanity is *different* than ours in one important respect: "Like us in all things except sin." It's the "except sin," part that makes Jesus' humanity unlike ours. But consider how alike it is. His humanity is mortal. It can weep. It can feel weakness. It can bleed. It can hunger. It can thirst. It can sleep. It can feel anxiety. It can get angry.

In fact, it seems to me that you've implicitly adopted a Docetic Jesus vis-a-vis Adam. For in arguing that Adam's tasks would have been more difficult without divine assistance, you argue that Jesus enjoyed that divine assistance at all times. But that robs the Philippians 2 "kenosis" right out of the Incarnation. Jesus "emptied" himself. He took on the form of a slave. He didn't use his equality with God as a crutch to get him through hard times. The one who said, "My God my God, why have you abandoned me," wasn't just play-acting.

But in your attempt to foist your misunderstanding of Protestant anthropology upon us, you're actually forced to create a caricature of both Adam and Jesus. Your Adam is saved by semi-Pelagianism and your Jesus is God pretending to be human--which is why everything came so "easy" to him.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>5) Correct, Pelagius conflated natural ability with grace, and in THIS SENSE Adam was originally in a 'state of grace', which is just what Luther and Protestants do.<<

Which is the correct thing to do. Why? Because Adam enjoyed God's favor, which is what grace is and did not require any supernatural aid in order to obey (which is what grace is not).

It's because you're imposing you have bought into the concept of a "reified" grace (that is--grace as a "thing" or "substance") that you argue that Adam required "something more" than his Edenic existence to carry out God's commands. That's where you err. That's where Pelagius was correct. Where Pelagius went wrong was in denying that our humanity underwent any kind of "change" in the Fall. That's where Augustine had it right. That's where you and Pelagius have it wrong.

Nick>>When you say Adam "saw God directly (so did not need faith)," means seeing God directly is a natural human ability - a creaturely ability more precisely, and no creature could see what is supernatural by their created abilities.<<

That's fallacious reasoning on your part. We do not have the "natural ability" to see God except that God reveals himself to us. Adam was able to see God because God chose to be seen by him. If God did not want to be seen, then Adam would not be able to see him. This in fact is what happened when Adam was booted from Eden. He no longer could see God has he once had.

Nick>>This is precisely what I meant when I said "Faith IS Reason" in #2 in Protestant anthropology.<<

Sorry Nick, but I'm not buying it.

Nick> When you say God "took away" privileges Adam was endowed with, you're not properly located those privileges in the right category (i.e. not essential to human nature).<<

Here, Nick, you're begging the same question. You begin with the assumption that pre-Fallen Adam's humanity was "in very way" the "same" or "identical" to ours and then argue upon that basis. But I reject your major premise. Clearly there is a difference even in Adam. For one--he was able to die. So right there we have a difference between his humanity and ours. Examples of the consequences of the Fall and the consequent change in our humanity can be multiplied.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>(6) You said "Fallen humanity is sinful," but you're playing fast and loose with terminology and consequently missing the point. If, as you say, everything God creates and sustains in existence is good, then how can humanity be sinful?<<

This is not even simul justus et pecator. This is basic ontology. "Everything that God created is good" (1 Timothy 4:4). Why? Because all things have their being in God. "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). So the goodness here is ontological, not moral. Sinfulness has to do with moral evil. Ontologically good beings (such as human beings and angels) can do morally evil acts. The evil we do may corrupt our nature, but it cannot destroy it. We remain image bearers of the Triune God.

Nick>> That's how man being spiritually dead is still human and ontologically good, he simply LACKS God's life dwelling in his soul.<<

Here you're defining sin as a mere privation. But that is a better ontological description of evil. It's not a very good theological description of sin, which is not simply a lack of divine life within the soul, but also refers to the sinful acts that fallen man commits. We are "dead in our trespasses and sins," not simply because we lack the divine life within us; but rather because we commit trespasses and sins. "Sin killed me," says Paul in Romans 7:11. Paul didn't say, "I simply lacked grace in my soul."

I'm afraid, Nick, that so much of your misunderstanding on these points regarding the degree to which we fell may be rooted in your own denial of your sinfulness. Until you understand the depth of your own depravity, you will have no way of understanding the grace and mercy of God. I pray that God will show this to you so that--like Isaiah--a man who was widely regarded as a "holy man"--could say, "Woe is me, I am undone." Sometimes God has to be severe with us before he can be merciful. But when you have been shown that mercy, then, in retrospect you will see clearly how sinful you are and you will loath and detest it and do everything you can to avoid it, even if it dogs you all your life (and it will).

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>(7) Simple question: was the Holy Spirit originally indwelling in Adam's soul?<<

I think so. God breathed into him and made him alive. We can interpret that--perhaps--as the Holy Spirit indwelling him.

However, since the story doesn't tell us much about the operation of the Holy Spirit, and since there is nothing else in the NT about the Holy Spirit's relationship to Adam (as far as I can tell), I don't know if it is possible to answer your question with anything but speculation.

Christopher Ference said...

Miguel,

I have been away for a spell to do work-related "stuff," but... I promise to respond to you from our last discussion... I just thought it interesting that you said:

"I don't know if it is possible to answer your question with anything but speculation."

I think that the Reformed speculate like this all of the time... they just think that they are doing so based on "sound exegesis." Nick's question is simple enough... the deduction seems a hack of a lot more justified than some of the other deductions that I think you all make (double.. nay TRIPLE imputations?!?)... I just thought your comment interesting...

Miguel Sastre said...

Chris>>. I just thought it interesting that you said:
"I don't know if it is possible to answer your question with anything but speculation."I think that the Reformed speculate like this all of the time... they just think that they are doing so based on "sound exegesis."<<

Yes, we do. So does everyone. But here's what we don't do: We don't speculate on the basis of *no exegesis whatsoever,* then pretend that this has been the *constant teaching of the Church,* then elevate those speculations to the level of defined dogma, then anathematize those who disagree. But that's what your church does. At yet somehow you don't have a problem with it.

>> Nick's question is simple enough...<<

Just to be clear, to which question are you referring? The one about Adam and the Holy Spirit? If so, I'd agree that the question was "simple." That does not mean, however, that the answer is.

>> (double.. nay TRIPLE imputations?!?)...<<

Yes. 1. Adam to us. (Of course the details have to be unpacked--but I think (perhaps a delayed) imputation of guilt rather than physical transmission of a sinful nature which leads us to repeat Adam's sin does more justice to Romans 5 than any other theory. 2. Clearly God laid upon Christ the iniquity of us all. Had he not, then he could not have born our sins on the cross and much of the NT becomes meaningless. This--I submit--is imputation pure and simple, which has its antecedents in OT conceptions of sin and guilt and the possibility of one person bearing the guilt of sin for another.
3. Finally, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us as well. We are found righteous before God, not on the basis of our good works and law keeping, but by faith in him. Hence the metaphors of being "clothed" in Christ etc.

Of course, too many stop there and forget that we are under obligation to become righteous as well. God may consider us righteous in justification. But he also requires us to become what he has declared us to be. This becoming righteous is what we mean by sanctification. And if we do not, then we have no right to claim that we were ever justified in the first place.

Christopher Ference said...

Miguel,

We're actually touching upon what really interested me in the other thread now.

Do you "anathematize" people who flatly deny that the concept that the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith is asserted in the Holy Writ? How about the people who flatly deny that the concept that the alien righteousness of Christ is imputed to the individual believer is asserted in the Bible? And the folks who flatly deny that Christ's death was a Divine punishment for the sins of the individually elect? Are these folks "good to go" doctrinally-speaking at your local parish? Are they Christians?

You wrote:
"2. Clearly God laid upon Christ the iniquity of us all. Had he not, then he could not have born our sins on the cross and much of the NT becomes meaningless. This--I submit--is imputation pure and simple, which has its antecedents in OT conceptions of sin and guilt and the possibility of one person bearing the guilt of sin for another."

It's not clear to me that God the Father imputed the sins of the individually and unconditionally elect to Christ's account, and judged Christ "guilty" of, nay actually being "sin incarnate" and, therefore, worthy of taking the Divine punishment for sin, which is death. You just can't see how justification would work any other way, so it MUST be that case, but, mi querido Miguel, that doesn't mean that it is the case.

You can't show me where the biblical metaphor, "clothed in Christ" is related to the unbiblical notion that Christ's alien righteousness is imputed to the individually and unconditionally elect bloke because... the 2nd bit is absent from Scripture... WHOLLY absent.

The only thing I can remember being "imputed" (where righteousness is mentioned) in the famous "imputation" passage in St. Paul is faith, not the "alien righteousness of Christ." I flatly deny that the concept that you say needs to be affirmed for the NT to make sense is asserted in the Scriptures. Does that make me anathema?

By the by, the passage you offered as proof that of alien righteousness (Phil. 3:9), doesn't seem, at least to me, to be a place where St. Paul is contrasting "his own righteousness" with the "God's righteousness." I will look more deeply into the Greek of the passage (it might take me some time), but I am pretty certain that what I said will pan out. Not to mention, there is no imputation going on here...

I hope that you're well.

Christopher

Nick said...

Hello Miguel,

To me the "real issue" is getting the proper "diagnosis" for the condition man is in. I think terminology is another issue that needs to be settled as well.

For example, you defined 'dead in sin' as:
<>

By this logic, *unfallen* man has the *natural* ability to believe in God and repent and be saved. This kind of reasoning leads to multiple problems, one of them being the fact the Christian's nature is still fallen and yet he can believe and repent. By your logic, this "natural ability" is impossible for the fallen.

You went onto quote Ephesians 2:4-5, saying how God "made us alive, by grace you've been saved," yet to you grace is external favor. How does external favor make you "alive"? It seems to me this text is solid proof that grace transforms man. More to the main point though, how does being "made alive" correspond to man's natural abilities to believe and repent? The only way that would make sense is if being "made alive" meant no longer having a fallen nature, but I don't think you believe that. This is a good example why there needs to be more consistency and precision when speaking about anthropology.

Here is another example of needing more precision in terminology, you said:
<>

This makes no sense to Catholic ears: "fallen man" is not "in his natural state". Maybe you meant "in his current state," which is fine. In response to your question, "fallen man" would have to be able to repent and believe, else no Christian could do so in the first place. The key point I'm trying to convey is that man's nature (humanity) is never changed, so faith and repentance must not be tied to nature, and in fact must be gifts directly from God. Further, it makes no sense to even apply "repentance" to the PreLapsarian state, i.e. Adam's original natural ability.

You said:
<>

Total Depravity corresponds to Nature (humanity) - to say TD is synonymous to "spiritual death" means the "spiritually alive" (i.e. Christian) cannot be TD. But that would entail the Christian has no fallen Nature (humanity) anymore. In short, if the consequence of Adam's sin was simply spiritual death, which you say is synonymous with TD, then being "made alive" consequently means not only no spiritual death, but no more TD either and thus back to where Adam originally was.

Here is how the Catholic avoids those pitfalls:
Spiritual Life = Humanity + Grace
Spiritual Death = Humanity - Grace
Note how "Humanity" (Nature) didn't change here.

Now compare this to what you're saying as a Protestant:
Spiritual Life = Humanity
Spiritual Death = ~Humanity = Total Depravity
The only way to give Spiritual Life in your system is to restore man back to Adam's original state, which is obviously wrong.

Nick said...

(1) You said:
>>you must be saying that the belief that Jesus was able to die is in fact inconsistent with our beliefs about his humanity. And you seem to do this solely on the grounds that we reject, what you're called the "NGD" (Nature/Grace Distinction.)>>

Correct. We both agree and know that Jesus did in fact die, but this reality is inconsistent with Protestant anthropology. It is the Catholic contention that Immortality was one (of multiple) graces Adam was endowed with, and with the NGD this grace could be lost without changing Nature (humanity).

You said:
>>I certainly agree with Thomas on this point--that grace perfects nature. Of course, by "grace" Thomas has bought into the scholastic concept of reified grace rather than the biblical concept of unmerited favor.>>

You cannot radically change Thomas' definition of grace and say you agree with Thomas or that your new resulting anthropology is the same. This is a serious, serious problem if that's what you believe. This is the heart of the problem we're dealing with, so it's a total error to suggest you can simply change definitions and all is well. The result of having "grace" mean "unmerited [external] favor" changes the whole equation, forcing you to conflate what Thomas distinguishes as grace and nature. The idea that "unmerited [external] favor" can "build upon" or transform or perfect Nature is a blatant contradiction in though; that's like saying a mother looking upon her infant with favor results in an actual change in the infant's human abilities or that your Boss can 'graciously' raise your salary and that has an effect on your human nature.

You said:
>>Thus the power of the Holy Spirit (for Protestants) and sanctifying grace (for Thomas) is functionally synonymous with respect to the perfection of nature.>>

How is the power of the Holy Spirit to be understood as "unmerited favor"? That's where you're getting hung up. Grace cannot be God's transforming power and simultaneously unmerited favor; the first definition certainly can transform nature, the other definition cannot.

What Paul calls "the flesh" cannot be in reference to Nature (humanity) because it would entail Jesus was not human as we are. This also explains why we can be struggling against "the flesh" and yet have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Spiritual Life). Thus, "the flesh" must refer to uncontrolled appetites (lusts) that entice us to act other than what we know better than to act like.

You said:
>>But we reject the idea that grace is simply an elevation of nature or an enablement of nature whereby man is empowered to save himself through cooperation.>>

Then the very idea of "walking by the Spirit" and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is nonsense, which cannot be. If there is no cooperation, then a Christian living a good life is no different than a pagan living a good life, with the sole exception that their respective "forensic status" is different. The term "cooperation" is only bad if one is Pelagian, because Pelagius was the one who said cooperation is a sin, and Luther followed him on this error. Cooperation is the epitome of Augustinian soteriology, which is why Protestant seminaries refuse to read On the Spirit and the Letter.

Onto the issue of immortality, you said:
>>Adam--before the fall--was immortal simply because there was no such thing as death. >>

That doesn't make sense; it's non-sequitor. Death isn't a 'thing' that enters a room, it's a state of being. Death is separation of the soul from the body - and metaphorically it's the separation of the soul from God's life. Adam's soul was very much capable of separating from his body, but something was preventing that. Your proposition entails that Jesus couldn't have even been immortal after the Resurrection.

Nick said...

You asked me:
>>Are you saying there's not a "before/after" with respect to Adam's humanity?>>

Yes, Adam's human nature (humanity) is the same human nature we have today. There is a 'before/after' transformation though, which is on the order of Grace. If human nature was lost, then Adam couldn't pass humanity on, and we wouldn't have the same humanity as he originally did, nor would Jesus be sharing in our humanity. The absolute most damaging effect of Adam's sin was the loss of intimacy with God, which consisted chiefly in the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is on the order of grace. We though human are born lacking the grace of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and thus are born alienated from God, which is a sad state indeed.

You said:
>>Being of the same species does not mean we have the exact same traits.>>

Agreed. The problem with Protestant anthropology is that without an NGD, the only thing left to be damaged was Nature itself, but to say sin damaged nature iteself results in serious errors. Compounding that problem is that Protestant anthropology forces them to posit abilities to natural man that man as a creature cannot actually possess.


(2) You said:
>>My guess is that pre-fallen Adam had love for God, but did have faith or hope because he was in direct communication with God.>>

That would imply Adam was fully saved, for he would have been experiencing Heaven then and there. That obviously cannot be, thus hope and faith had to be there (since he had to look forward to better things). As for love, this couldn't have been the ordinary human love even pagans have, it could only be a super-natural infused love that only God can grant (e.g. Rom 5:5; Jn 15:10). Thus you're forced to admit the Catholic NGD at least to some degree, which you've implicitly done elsewhere.


(3) You said:
>>Adam was not beset with human weakness. Christ was. He was like us in all things except sin.>>

So you believe Christ's intellect was less acute than Adam, that Christ's will less strong than Adam, and that Christ experienced concupiscience? If NO, then you can hardly say Christ was best with human weakness.

Further, do you deny Christ was "full of Grace and Truth" and that He had the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit? If Matthew 3:15 when the Holy Spirit comes upon Christ "to fulfill all righteousness," and that this entails Active Obedience, then certainly someone Actively Obeying with the aid of the Holy Spirit cannot be compared to someone Actively Obeying by their own human powers. The Holy Spirit is God!


(4) You asked:
>>If Mary had been conceived in sin like the rest of us, would Jesus' humanity be different than ours?>>

No, Jesus would have the same humanity as Mary. That's because humanity doesn't change. Being "conceived in sin" is something that goes beyond humanity, on the order of grace.

Jesus being "like us in all things except sin" means He never was out of communion with God. Obviously Jesus never sinned, but neither did he experience the spiritual damage of sin, namely alienation from God. In other words, Jesus was never "spiritually dead".

Nick said...

You said:
>>But consider how alike it is. His humanity is mortal. It can weep. It can feel weakness. It can bleed. It can hunger. It can thirst. It can sleep. It can feel anxiety. It can get angry. >>

The same can be said of Adam. He was mortal, he could weep, feel weakness, bleed, hunger, thirst, sleep, etc. Those are natural human abilities that belong to human nature, none of them are sins.


(5) You've affirmed my thesis that Protestant anthropology is Pelagian. This is a good start because once you recognize the natural limits of human nature, you'll see why Pelagianism is to be rejected.

Faith, Hope, and Love are all super-natural abilities, that is they rise above nature to what man lacks the natural ability to do. To deny that means the love Adam was to have for God and neighbor is the same type of love pagans are capable of exercising, and worse yet this is the same kind of love God pours into Christian hearts (Rom 5:5).

How do you define Faith, Hope, and Love?

You said:
>>But I reject your major premise. Clearly there is a difference even in Adam. For one--he was able to die. So right there we have a difference between his humanity and ours.>>

But above you said Adam's immortality was tied simply to being in Eden, so that contradicts your statement here, because in both cases humanity would be the same, only the "location" would be the real difference affecting immortality. What you're not getting is that I agree there is a change in Adam to us, the key is that this change is not on the level of Nature.


(6) You said:
>>So the goodness here is ontological, not moral. Sinfulness has to do with moral evil. Ontologically good beings (such as human beings and angels) can do morally evil acts. The evil we do may corrupt our nature, but it cannot destroy it.>>

AMEN! That's what I'm trying to get across. But you are forced to reject any notion of "sin nature" and "total depravity" and "simul justus et pecator" because those all posit an ontological evil rather than a moral one. How is humanity "sinful" apart from committing an evil act?


You said:
>>It's not a very good theological description of sin, which is not simply a lack of divine life within the soul, but also refers to the sinful acts that fallen man commits.>>

I would agree with this, I'm just amazed you're allowing "dead in sin" to refer to lack of divine life in the soul. Sure it also refers to sinful acts, but we're born dead in sin prior to committing any evil acts. By definition, "divine life" is not natural human spiritual life, it's divine, and it's infused into us.


(7) You said you think the Holy Spirit was originally indwelling in Adam's soul. If this is so, how could Adam be doing purely human actions, rather than "walking by the Spirit" and cooperating with the promptings of the Holy Spirit? It's unthinkable that the Holy Spirit can indwell and yet have no effect on Adam's actions, thus Adam would have originally had to cooperate, thus refuting Pelagianism and Protestantism. The Holy Spirit is not natural to man, thus it had to be a grace endowed on Human Nature, which could be lost (and was) upon sin, resulting in a spiritually dead human soul.

Do you see how saying "Yes" to that question (even if just speculating) ends up overturning your entire anthropological paradigm?

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>> By this logic, *unfallen* man has the *natural* ability to believe in God and repent and be saved<<

No, Nick. There is no "unfallen man" except for Adam and Eve prior to the Fall and Christ himself. When I was referring to "natural" ability, I had man after the Fall in mind. Paul says that we are "by nature children of wrath." So what does that mean? Well, here's what it can't mean: It can't mean that we are "by nature" in a state of grace. Since Paul also says we are "dead," and a whole host of other things along those lines in the rest of his letters, I would infer that human beings since Adam are "by nature" (that is, "naturally") unable to do anything even remotely salvific. That would rule out things like faith, repentance, obedience and cooperation. So that's my take on Ephesians 2:3. What's yours? How do you insist that we are able to do all these things when Paul, over and over again, says that salvation is "not of yourselves" but is entirely God's doing (i.e., by grace)?

>>This kind of reasoning leads to multiple problems, one of them being the fact the Christian's nature is still fallen and yet he can believe and repent.<<

That's not our position. We still are "of the flesh," but we are also "new creations." So something does change in us when we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Put another way, we can only believe and repent because of a prior work of grace. We Calvinists call that work of grace "regeneration." Arminians call it "prevenient grace." Both sides agree, however, that unless God does something on our behalf, we are incapable of responding in our natural state. (Again, by "natural state," I mean mean our Fallen condition).

Nick>>You went onto quote Ephesians 2:4-5, saying how God "made us alive, by grace you've been saved," yet to you grace is external favor.<<

There's no contradiction here. Grace isn't a "power" or a "substance" but God's favor. As an act of mercy and graciousness God raised us by his own power. I would say the Holy Spirit regenerated us so that we could repent and believe. But I wouldn't identify the Holy Spirit with grace itself. Think of grace not as the means by which God regenerated us, but rather the medium in which he regenerated us by his own power.

Nick>>How does external favor make you "alive"?<<

It doesn't. But the Holy Spirit does.

Nick>>In response to your question, "fallen man" would have to be able to repent and believe, else no Christian could do so in the first place.<<

How about this: Unregenerate man cannot repent and believe. But once God intervenes ("But God...Eph. 4), then man is regenerated so that he can repent and believe. The key difference between the Reformed and virtually everyone else is that repentance and belief follow inexorably from regeneration, whereas I think a Romanist and an Arminian would say that the "first grace" doesn't guarantee repentance and faith, but only gives man the opportunity to do so.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>The key point I'm trying to convey is that man's nature (humanity) is never changed, so faith and repentance must not be tied to nature, and in fact must be gifts directly from God.<<

I too agree that both faith and repentance are gifts from God. They are given to those whom God first regenerates....I think I see where your misunderstanding is now. You seem to think that God regenerates and that man does the rest since he now has a new nature with which to believe and repent. But we would say that God's grace is necessary for the entire salvation process, start to finish. God begins a good work and sees it through to completion (Phil 1:6). It is by grace from start to finish. But in your theology, God doesn't always finish what he starts. In mine he does.

Nick>>Total Depravity corresponds to Nature (humanity) - to say TD is synonymous to "spiritual death" means the "spiritually alive" (i.e. Christian) cannot be TD.<<

This is a bit sloppy Nick. I'm not really following you here. We would say that unregenerate man is in a sate of total depravity. That state changes with regeneration. But the change is gradual. We still retain vestiges of our past. That's why Paul can say we are "of flesh," while at the same time saying we are no longer "in the flesh." The distinction is crucial. It explains who we can still have sinful desires while simultaneously being "new creations" in Christ. This means that God is constantly creating us, transforming us and conforming us to the image of his son. He is doing this by grace. But don't think of this grace as a "substance." Paul wasn't using Aristotelian categories but rather biblical ones. Paul attributes the transforming power of God to God himself. In other words, because we are in a state of grace (God choosing to show us her mercy and benevolence and favor), God goes even further by actually changing us.

Nick>>But that would entail the Christian has no fallen Nature (humanity) anymore.<<

Nick...do you only see the world in black and white? Honestly, Nick. Your penchant for either/or thinking simply astounds. Is it at all possible to you that God could take an unregenerate person, bring that person back to life (i.e., regenerate him or her) and then gradually transform that person into the image of Christ? So given that such is a process, then it follows that a regenerate person is still made of the same "flesh" that he inherited from Adam. But he or she also has the Holy Spirit and is expressly called "a new creation." That's not forensic language. That's transformation language. So yes--the Holy Spirit does change our nature.

Nick>>Here is how the Catholic avoids those pitfalls:
Spiritual Life = Humanity + Grace<<

Define "humanity" and define "grace."

Nick>>The only way to give Spiritual Life in your system is to restore man back to Adam's original state, which is obviously wrong.<<

You're partly right here. New creation is restoration language, and I think a case can be made for the idea that salvation is paradise restored, which would include a restoration to our original humanity. But I suspect God wants to do even better than that. "What we will be" has not yet been revealed.

Yet you say this is "obviously wrong." Explain.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>Correct. We both agree and know that Jesus did in fact die, but this reality is inconsistent with Protestant anthropology.<<

Sorry Nick. I don't think anyone's going to buy that. You keep asserting it, but you haven't offered anything like an argument for it. One reason why: You have yet to tell the world what you mean by "Protestant anthropology."

Nick>>You cannot radically change Thomas' definition of grace...<<

I'm doing no such thing. If you'll kindly reread what I said, I actually disagree with Thomas' definition of grace. I do, however, agree with the point he was making about God perfecting our nature. I simply do not attribute that to a "substance" called "grace;" rather I attribute it to the very power of God himself--and specifically the Holy Spirit who seems to have the role of the one who transforms us. Since you've completely misrepresented me, the rest of your point is moot.

Nick>>How is the power of the Holy Spirit to be understood as "unmerited favor"?<<

It's not. Who's arguing this? Grace is one thing. The Holy Spirit is another. So who or what transforms us? Does God use a "substance" called "grace" to do the transforming? Or does the Holy Spirit do the transforming himself? You can go with the language of Aristotle. I'll go with Scripture.

Nick>>What Paul calls "the flesh" cannot be in reference to Nature (humanity) because it would entail Jesus was not human as we are.<<

No Nick. If you deny that are "of flesh," then you deny an essential aspect of our humanity. This would imply that "flesh" in an alien being or substance that has invaded our humanity. But that would be more like what Paul calls "sin," which he even seems to personify at times (see Romans 5). The flesh refers to our weakness. Now if Jesus didn't take on "the flesh," then he really didn't become human. That's why I accuse you of Docetism. You're really not preaching a fully human Jesus who was like us in all things (including our flesh) except sin.

Nick>>Then the very idea of "walking by the Spirit" and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is nonsense, which cannot be.<<

No--that's exactly what I believe. But notice that Paul called it "walking by the Spirit." He is not here using the language of grace to describe the power by which we resist the desires of the flesh.

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>If there is no cooperation, then a Christian living a good life is no different than a pagan living a good life, with the sole exception that their respective "forensic status" is different.<<

There are two errors here. The first is understandable. Protestants don't usually use the language of "cooperation," but rightly understood, I don't see why we couldn't with respect to sanctification. Obviously God commands Christians to do good and avoid evil and that we are to rely on his strength to do so. That sounds like "cooperation" to me. But spiritually dead men cannot cooperate because they're dead. That's what "dead" means. So unless God regenerates you, you can't cooperate.

Your second error is more problematic. You seem to believe that there are pagans out there living a "good life." What does that mean exactly? Of course unregenerate men can do morally good actions. "If you who are evil know how to give your children good gifts.." (Matthew 7:11). But the occasional or even habitual good that they do does not save them, nor ever make up for the sins they commit, which are many. Besides--there are none who are righteous and none who seek after God and none who do good (Romans 3:11-18). So taking in all the data, I think we have to review pagan humanity as unregenerate and that there default condition is not one of seeking the true and living God. So I don't think it's valid to compare a regenerate Christian to an unregenerate pagan.

Nick>>That doesn't make sense; it's non-sequitor. Death isn't a 'thing' that enters a room, it's a state of being. Death is separation of the soul from the body - and metaphorically it's the separation of the soul from God's life. Adam's soul was very much capable of separating from his body, but something was preventing that.<<

Nah....Nick...stop the metaphysics for a second and read Genesis. Death doesn't come into the world until Adam sins. That's the controlling narrative for our theology of death. "Adam's soul was very much capable of separating from his body...." Yes--but only after he sinned. Prior to that, death was only a theoretical potential, not an actual possibility.

Nick>>Your proposition entails that Jesus couldn't have even been immortal after the Resurrection.<<

How so?

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>Yes, Adam's human nature (humanity) is the same human nature we have today.<<

Be precise, Nick. Was Adam's humanity before the Fall the same *in every way* as our humanity is today?
If you say yes, then what happened at the Fall? How are you not the one who is Pelagian here? Did Adam only set us a bad example? Or was there a real corruption of our humanity (without ceasing to be human)?

Nick>>If human nature was lost,...<<

Who is arguing for that? No one is saying that the Fall robbed us of our humanity. For then we would be something other than human. Nick--you're creating straw men and not doing a very good job of knocking them down.

Nick>>The absolute most damaging effect of Adam's sin was the loss of intimacy with God, which consisted chiefly in the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is on the order of grace.<<

So we lost all the positives but acquired no negatives? Is that your view?

Nick>>The problem with Protestant anthropology is that without an NGD, the only thing left to be damaged was Nature itself, but to say sin damaged nature iteself results in serious errors. Compounding that problem is that Protestant anthropology forces them to posit abilities to natural man that man as a creature cannot actually possess.<<

I think here, I finally understand your position and what you think is "Protestant anthropology." But I disagree with your assessment. First, we would not argue that sin has destroyed our nature. Sin does not have the power to do that. It cannot undo what God has created. But it can corrupt it.

Now--somewhat of a weasel word is the term "natural man." We have to define what we mean by that. I've already said that Adam--in his natural state before the Fall--had certain abilities and privileges that we--in our natural state--do not have (Free will, for example). But when I speak of our "natural state," I mean only to say we are born in a certain way and not that our conduct causes us to be the way we are. This--I think--is what Paul means in Ephesians 2:3 when he ways that we are "**by nature** children of wrath").

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>That would imply Adam was fully saved, for he would have been experiencing Heaven then and there.<<

There are too many errors here to count. First, Nick, this may surprise you, but Heaven isn't our final destination. Earth is. Heaven (not "purgatory") is the intermediate state. God's plan is to make a new heaven's and and a new earth and it is upon that new (or renewed) earth that we will finally dwell. Call this a return to Eden--only a renewed Eden. Second, you can't use the language of "saved" to describe a person who was not first "lost." Pre-fallen Adam was in a state of original justice. He wasn't "saved," because there was nothing to save him from. He had not yet sinned so did not require saving.

Nick>>That obviously cannot be, thus hope and faith had to be there (since he had to look forward to better things).<<

Now you're making all kinds of dogmatic statements on the basis of your own speculation. Why would Adam need faith or hope? Why would anyone who is in the presence of God need either one? "Faith, hope and love--the greatest of these is love." Love is all that remains when faith and hope are no longer needed.

NIck>>So you believe Christ's intellect was less acute than Adam, that Christ's will less strong than Adam, and that Christ experienced concupiscience?<<

No, I don't. But I do believe he experienced all our weaknesses without succumbing to them. His will was obviously strong enough to always choose not to sin, which implies his intellect was strong enough to always specify the right thing to do. The reason why Christ was a stronger man was because--unlike Adam--Christ did not sin.

Nick>>If NO, then you can hardly say Christ was best with human weakness.<<

But that's what Hebrews 5:2 seems to imply in comparing the Great high priest to other high priests. But here, of course, we must distinguish between weakness and succumbing to it. Christ obviously experienced all the temptations and weaknesses that any human being experiences without succumbing to them.

Nick>>Further, do you deny Christ was "full of Grace and Truth" and that He had the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit? If Matthew 3:15 when the Holy Spirit comes upon Christ "to fulfill all righteousness," and that this entails Active Obedience, then certainly someone Actively Obeying with the aid of the Holy Spirit cannot be compared to someone Actively Obeying by their own human powers. The Holy Spirit is God!<<

You're a Docestist, Nick. You don't actually believe Jesus was human, do you? You're claiming that the Holy Spirit so empowered Jesus that any weakness he experienced was nothing more than a minor inconvenience.

But in point of fact, Jesus did what he did as the God-Man. You can't override his humanity with his divinity or the divinity of the Father and the Spirit.

Or, perhaps, you're a Nestorian. Either way, you're denying that Jesus lived a perfect life as a human being; rather you seem to be attributing this to his divinity, with his humanity just going along for the ride.

Nick>>No, Jesus would have the same humanity as Mary.<<

Then Mary must have had the same humanity as that of her parents. Guess what. They were sinners. Guess what. So was she. Guess what...if you keep doing the logic, you're argument will lead you to the conclusion that Jesus was a sinner too, which can't be. So there must be a problem with your argument. And here it is: Jesus took his humanity from Mary (all parties agree) except for its sinfulness. As I said before, only Jesus was immaculately conceived. If Mary was too, then so were here parents and so on. (Just as Bernard of Clairvaux argued a long time ago.)

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>The same can be said of Adam. He was mortal, he could weep, feel weakness, bleed, hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.<<

Are we talking about Adam after the Fall or before it?

Nick>>Those are natural human abilities that belong to human nature, none of them are sins.<<

Right. Who said otherwise?


Nick>>(5) You've affirmed my thesis that Protestant anthropology is Pelagian.<<

LOL. No, Nick. If anyone is Pelagian here, it's you. You're arguing for an identical humanity before and after the Fall, just as Pelagius did.

Nick>>But above you said Adam's immortality was tied simply to being in Eden, so that contradicts your statement here,<<

No, Nick. I was also clear that by immortality I meant the inability to die. Death did not enter the world until Adam sinned. So he was unable to die (physically) until he sinned. Some argue that his was a "conditional immortality" prior to the Fall--meaning that he had the ability to die (which he would have if he didn't eat the food God provided for him or perhaps if he fell off of a large cliff or something). But rather than speculate about these possibilities (fun as that may be), I prefer to follow the narrative itself which clearly tells us that death is the result of sin. Ergo--Adam prior to sin--was immortal in the qualified sense above. You'll also notice that after the Fall disease enters into the world as well. So perhaps we might infer that a weakened immune system might be one of the physical effects of the Fall.

Nick>>AMEN! That's what I'm trying to get across. But you are forced to reject any notion of "sin nature"<<

I do reject "sin nature," as did Calvin and most of the magisterial Reformers. That's the kind of terminology you might hear from some sectors of Evangelicalism that lack any kind of theological sophistication. But I think that even when we unpack what they mean by that, it usually is being used as a synonym for "the flesh." I hear people using it all the time and when I ask them what they mean by that, they say "the flesh." But since "flesh" is often misunderstood in our culture, I can see why some have proposed "sin nature" as an alternative. The problem, however, is that such terminology lends itself to the specific misunderstanding that our nature is *essentially* sinful--which would imply that the goodness of creation has been *destroyed* by sin--that the image of God has been totally *erased* rather than *effaced,*

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>>How is humanity "sinful" apart from committing an evil act?<<

"In Adam's Fall we sinned all." We inherit and/or participate in Adam's sin and so reap what he sowed. The results are a corruption of our nature, spiritual death, punishment, guilt etc.

Nick>>I would agree with this, I'm just amazed you're allowing "dead in sin" to refer to lack of divine life in the soul. Sure it also refers to sinful acts, but we're born dead in sin prior to committing any evil acts.<<

Yes, we're born dead in trespasses and sins and we are by nature children of wrath. An interesting question is whether or not God imputes the guilt of Adam to us prior to our having committed personal sin. I'm not entirely positive that Paul has small children in mind when he talks about "trespasses and sins" or the "wages of sin" (which seems to envision someone old enough to earn a wage). So I think a case can be made for a delayed imputation of guilt, though I am not presently willing to defend that.

Nick>>You said you think the Holy Spirit was originally indwelling in Adam's soul. If this is so, how could Adam be doing purely human actions,<<

How does God dwelling us rob us of our humanity? I thought you believed that grace perfects nature, as Thomas argues. Apparently you believe that grace overrides and replaces nature. Think hypostatic union. The good that we do with God indwelling us is still 100% human and 100% God.

No>>Do you see how saying "Yes" to that question (even if just speculating) ends up overturning your entire anthropological paradigm?<<

Not at all.

Miguel Sastre said...

Christopher>>Do you "anathematize" people who flatly deny that the concept that the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith is asserted in the Holy Writ?<<

No, but I pray for them.

Nick>>How about the people who flatly deny that the concept that the alien righteousness of Christ is imputed to the individual believer is asserted in the Bible?<<

I don't anathematize them either. But I do flatly affirm that they ought to reconsider. By they way--how can Christ's righteousness be anything but "alien," (by which Luther meant extrinsic to us)? If it's "Christ's" by right, then it is not "ours" by anything other than a gift. If it is "ours" intrinsically, then it is something we merited--it is our "due" as Paul says, and so it isn't grace at all and certainly not Christ's righteousness.

Nick>>And the folks who flatly deny that Christ's death was a Divine punishment for the sins of the individually elect?<<

So are you saying that Christ atone for our sins and made propitiation for them, but that there was no punishment involved? Is it the "punishment" part that you're stuck on? If so, why? Is it not a matter of divine justice to punish sin? But isn't it also a a prerogative of divine mercy to withhold that punishment from those who deserve it? Could therefore God "have it both ways" by simultaneously allowing an innocent willing victim (in this case himself) to undergo the punishment and turning that into the very means by which he shows his mercy to those for whom he died? I just don't see what's so horrifying about that.

Chris>>It's not clear to me that God the Father imputed the sins of the individually and unconditionally elect to Christ's account, and judged Christ "guilty" of, nay actually being "sin incarnate"..<<

Yeah that's your caricature of PSA rearing its ugly head again...no comment Chris. If you want a serious dialogue, make a serious comment. Moving right along...

Chris>>You can't show me where the biblical metaphor, "clothed in Christ" is related to the unbiblical notion...<<

You're begging the question....For what is and what is not "biblical" must first be established before we can call something "unbiblical." Since you have *predetermined* that I can't show this, why bother trying?

Christ.>> Does that make me anathema?<<

No. But I "flatly deny" that Mary was immaculately conceived. Does that make my "anathema" according to your church? Why, yes, it does.

Miguel Sastre said...

Christopher>>By the by, the passage you offered as proof that of alien righteousness (Phil. 3:9), doesn't seem, at least to me, to be a place where St. Paul is contrasting "his own righteousness" with the "God's righteousness."<<

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Phil 3:8-9).

The point of contrast seems to be the basis by which we are justified. If Paul had kept the law, then his righteousness would have been "his own." That would not have been sufficient to be "found in him." As Paul says elsewhere, "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due" (Rom 4:4). The sense seems to be the same. So if Paul is counted as righteous, not on the basis of his works or law-keeping, then on what basis is he counted righteous? The answer is faith. The faith is specifically in Christ. And this righteousness comes from outside of Paul as a gift. It is therefore "alien" in the sense that it is not merited by him or intrinsic to him.

Christopher Ference said...

Miguel,

My grandmother just passed away this morning, so I don't know when I will be able to continue this discussion. I am not convinced that Calvinism better than Catholicism... is seems wholly unfair to me... you say I misunderstand it... that it's not unfair, but glorious. Fine. If God the Father didn't condemn/punish the innocent Jesus as if He were guilty for the sins of (only) the individually and unconditionally elected sinners... and His (Jesus') death wasn't the result of this condemnation/punishment... then you're correct... I have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what PSA is... because what I think it is makes me HATE the "God" that would do it... which, if the "god" I am hating is anything at all like the real one (i.e. more like what I perceive the God of Calvinism to be like), then my HATE and disobedience is merely part of His plan... which is also absolutely disgusting, as, according to you... I am, by a decree from eternity past, UNABLE to be anything else of a God-hating enemy of my Creator. If that is anything CLOSE to what you believe... I NEVER EVER want ANYTHING to do with your religion.



Goodbye

Miguel Sastre said...

Christopher>>My grandmother just passed away this morning, so I don't know when I will be able to continue this discussion.<<

I am sorry for your loss. Please take all the time you need to grieve and know that I will pray for you in this difficult time.

>> I am not convinced that Calvinism better than Catholicism... is seems wholly unfair to me... <<

It's possible to frame the discussion so that either "system" seems unfair or makes God into some kind of sadistic monster or simply indifferent to the plight of those He has not elected to salvation. I once thought that a God who would deliberately bring a human being into the world whom he knew would cause evil to others or willfully choose hell for himself/herself could not at the same time be a good God. Likewise, a God who is in a position to head off evil at the pass or prevent tragedy ahead of time and still chooses not to is only at best an indifferent God. Whether sadistic or indifferent, why worship such a being?

But of course those objections are all "framing issues." It is possible to draw the wrong inference from any system. It's sort of like accusing Jesus of not being able to swim just because he walked on water.

But when we think that way, what does that say about ourselves? It seems to me that such a way of thinking is simply a manifestation of the desires of the flesh that would prefer to be independent of God, autonomous and unaccountable to the real God. Is this not the very attitude Paul is describing in Romans 1:18--the suppression of the the knowledge of God?


You said>> If God the Father didn't condemn/punish the innocent Jesus as if He were guilty for the sins of (only) the individually and unconditionally elected sinners... and His (Jesus') death wasn't the result of this condemnation/punishment... then you're correct... I have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what PSA is...<<

So if you frame the discussion this way, then how does the idea of a savior who lays his life down for his sheep make any sense? But PSA argues for precisely this. Likewise, when Isaiah tells us that God was pleased to lay upon him the iniquity of us all--Isaiah is only giving us one aspect of a larger truth. It is true: God did lay upon Jesus the punishment that others deserved. But it is also true that Jesus volunteered to take that punishment upon himself "for his sheep."

So if you look at God punishing Jesus for a crime he did not commit, it sounds sadistic. It makes God out to be a cosmic child abuser. Or--alternatively-the Trinune God, with complete agreement and harmony among the three divine persons--has graciously satisfied justice on the one hand and given mercy on the other--in a single act that only the God-Man could accomplish. That's not sadism. That's the gospel.

Looked at that way, God is transferring punishment from the people to the lamb (for which there are OT precedents). But at the same time, the priest who offers is also the victim that is offered.

Miguel Sastre said...

Christopher>>... then my HATE and disobedience is merely part of His plan... which is also absolutely disgusting, as, according to you... I am, by a decree from eternity past, UNABLE to be anything else of a God-hating enemy of my Creator.<<

This is another one of those " depends-on-how-you- frame-it" issues. So here is how we Reformed would frame it: God decrees all things for his glory. To achieve that end, he sovereignly chooses to show some his mercy while giving the rest his justice. God is not unjust to punish sin, which all parties agree, is the fault of the sinner who willfully chooses sin. So when God condemns, he is always justified in doing so. Your objection essentially says that God is unjust to condemn. This is precisely the objection that Paul has in mind in Romans 9:19 " You will say to me then, 'Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?'" The only answer we can give is the same one Paul gave in the next verse: "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?"

The idea here seems to be that God is under no obligation to show mercy to everyone but is perfectly justified in showing justice to anyone. So framed that way, we are not in a position to understand, "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated" in Romans 9:13. My sense is that most people are scandalized by the "Esau I hated" part of that verse. But if I'm understanding Paul correctly, I think he meant his reader to be amazed by the "Jacob I loved," part. Here the language is that of choosing and rejecting, and the basis upon which God chooses is entirely irrespective of the lives or choices that Jacob and Esau made. For we read in Romans 9: 11: "...though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of thim who calls..." Paul utterly rules out of court any idea that God's decision to elect was based on anything inherent or foreseen in the objects of his election (or reprobation). But because the default condition of unregenerate humanity leads inexorably to eternal damnation, God can condemn simply by not choosing to show mercy at all. But if we seek to ask further why God chooses one and rejects another the only answer we have is, "because he wills it." We simply are not privy to God's inner motivations.

>>If that is anything CLOSE to what you believe... I NEVER EVER want ANYTHING to do with your religion.<<

Echoing Romans 9:19...

Nick said...

Hello Miguel,
After reading your comments (thanks for your response), let me use the analogy of a House to hopefully get us on the same page.

A House by Nature (that is, a the essence of something) is wood, nails, and glass. It has the “natural abilities” to keep the rain out, let the sun shine in, and retain heat.

But there CAN BE more to House than that, the Builder (God) can include such things as indoor Plumbing and Electricity and DSL, and this is where Grace comes in. Grace is NOT an essential part of something's Nature, but it is a 'luxury' the Builder adds that can 'build upon' something's Nature to grant that Nature “super powers” that go beyond Nature so to speak.

We know that a House can exist without luxuries like Plumbing or Electricity or DSL, but we also know how much more 'dignity' the House is 'elevated' to with luxuries like Plumbing and Electricity and DSL. In fact, we'd say a House lacking Plumbing and Electricity and DSL is a sad and rough state to live in.

When we say Adam's human Nature was Graced with certain gifts, it's akin to saying his House was Graced with Plumbing and Electricity and DSL. God didn't have to give Adam's House any of those Gifts, but He did.

When Adam sinned, as a punishment he was stripped of those Graces, just as if a House was stripped of Plumbing and Electricity and DSL. The House REMAINED a house with the abilities to keep out rain, let sunshine in, etc, but we can surely agree this current 'fallen nature' is a sad state of affairs. Most of us cannot imagine not having Plumbing or Electricity or Internet! Such a state is rough living and such is NOT inviting for special guests (Indwelling of the Holy Spirit)!

Protestant anthropology is not careful to make such distinctions between Nature and Grace, so they see luxuries (“super powers”) like Plumbing and Electricity and DSL as part of the Nature of the House. They CONFLATE Nature and Grace. In other words, the House cannot be a house without those luxuries. The problem here is that nothing can be stripped from the House without it ceasing to be a House, and this is why Pelagius' anthropology denied anything happened to Adam's nature after Adam fell. But Protestants claimed something did happen to Nature, which entails the House lost ESSENTIAL qualities. So when they see Adam's Fall and consequences it is akin to the House windows being broken, the roof caving in, and walls about to topple. This “House” is in a “totally depraved” state, and doesn't resemble much of a house as we know it. For this “house” to be a 'new creation', it has to be rebuilt little by little just to get it back to square one.

As we can see, there are two VERY DIFFERENT repair jobs the Builder must undertake between the Catholic House and the Protestant House.

In the Catholic view, certain luxuries like DSL (immortality) were permanently lost and never restored to the House, and that certainly sucks, but the Builder decided to restore the most important luxuries like Plumbing, making the house 'dignified' enough for the Holy Spirit to dwell in it. The House is a “new creation” once it's been renovated to include things like Plumbing again. All unbelievers are akin to Catholic Houses without any luxuries, particularly Plumbing, making it impossible for special guests like the Holy Spirit to Indwell (“children of wrath”).

In the Protestant view, it's unclear and inconsistent at what point the House regains a semblance of having the Nature of being a house and when it is inhabitable again. That's a problem.

Obviously the above analogy of a House breaks down at some point. BUT DO YOU at least see the Nature-Grace Distinction I'm trying to make and how it is not trivial??

Miguel Sastre said...

Hello Nick,

Nice "house analogy." The problem with any analogy is that (by definition) it is both like and unlike that to which it is compared, which is why you're correct that at some point it must break down.

One of the problems I have with it is that you begin with the idea that he house was "fully loaded" and then God simply took away some of its luxuries, which you define as "unessential."

That means that such things really aren't intrinsic to human nature to begin with and so it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Adam was in some ways "superhuman" or even more than human. But I don't think you really want to say that.

In my view, Adam's humanity is what God originally envisioned for everyone. So he sets the industry standard for what it means to be human (until Jesus came, raising the bar even further.)

Now I certainly agree that we "lost" something in the Fall. But did we also "acquire" anything? In other words--in keeping with your house analogy--did anything happen to the house? Did termites invade? Did the roof become delapidated? Are their any missing shutters? Any broken windows? Any decay whatsoever?

Since the Bible doesn't use the "house" analogy, it's difficult to say for sure. But what the Bible does say is that humanity became sinful, corrupted, prone to sickness and disease and even mortal--all this--but without ceasing to be human. So even a run-down house in dire need of repair and renovation is still a house.

Nick>>When we say Adam's human Nature was Graced with certain gifts, it's akin to saying his House was Graced with Plumbing and Electricity and DSL. God didn't have to give Adam's House any of those Gifts, but He did.<<

But can you say exactly what was intrinsic to his nature and what was "bonus material?" I'm not sure that you can.

But what about this: Let's say God did take away some of the bonus material, for the sake of argument, so that what we have is just human nature, unadorned. (Which is what Pelagius argued, by the way--which is why you sound far more Pelagian than I do). Supposing this, did anything negative happen to that unadorned human nature?

Let's say man had a will. Let's say Adam's will was operating at peek efficiency. But after the Fall, the human will doesn't seem to work as well. We have volition, but it hardly seems "free." In fact, the Bible says we are "enslaved to sin." So is it possible that God left us with a baseline will, but then after sin invaded, the baseline will became enslaved?


Nick>>Protestant anthropology is not careful to make such distinctions between Nature and Grace, so they see luxuries (“super powers”) like Plumbing and Electricity and DSL as part of the Nature of the House.<<

But how do you know where to draw the line between nature and grace? How do you know which human qualities are on the "nature" side of the fence and which are on the "grace" side of the equation?

So it's not so much that we Protestants deny the distinction; rather we differ on just where to draw that line.

In our opinion, the Fall did far more damage than Roman Catholics are willing to admit, but which non-Roman Catholics such as Augustine saw quite clearly: Sin did a number on us: It corrupted our nature and so now--prior to spiritual regeneration-- we think and make choices in accordance with that corrupted nature.

But when we point out this out, Roman Catholics jump to the (false) conclusion that "free will" and the like are "super powers." No. We say those are the normal powers that God originally endowed humanity with, but which have been corrupted in the Fall. The redemption that the entire creation awaits is one in which that corruption will be removed (Romans 8) so that our "natural powers" will be restored.

continued...

Miguel Sastre said...

Nick>> So when they see Adam's Fall and consequences it is akin to the House windows being broken, the roof caving in, and walls about to topple. This “House” is in a “totally depraved” state, and doesn't resemble much of a house as we know it.<<

Ah, but here's where the analogy breaks down. We have come to see corrupted human nature as *the norm* rather than abnormal. Now if very house looked like Detroit, that would be the *norm* and a functioning house (without all upgrades) would look like a "super house" in comparison. But in point of fact, Fallen humanity is more like the delapidated houses of an abandoned neighborhood in Detroit than track homes in suburbia.

So as you can see, your analogy can just as easily illustrate "Protestant anthropology" (so called). It all depends upon how far you think we fell. So how to make that decision? There really is only one source that can answer that question--the Bible.

Nick said...

Hi Miguel,

You said:
>>One of the problems I have with it is that you begin with the idea that he house was "fully loaded" and then God simply took away some of its luxuries, which you define as "unessential.">>

It is good that you have a problem with that, because that means we are on the same page on an important point (despite the disagreement).

You said:
>>That means that such things really aren't intrinsic to human nature to begin with and so it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Adam was in some ways "superhuman" or even more than human. But I don't think you really want to say that.>>

You understood me correctly – but the key is that I *do* want to say just that: Adam was indeed 'superhuman', but properly understood. The term “super” entails “going beyond the normal”. Adam was not superhuman in the sense he was Clark Superman Kent with DNA from Krypton. Adam was always human from Earth, he was just given superhuman attributes/abilities. It would be as if God gave you the power to fly, well flying is a superhuman ability, but you are still human. A good example is when God made Balaam's Donkey speak Hebrew and bless Israel, the Donkey remained a Donkey but was given super-donkey abilities that transcend the donkey's animal nature.

You said:
>>In my view, Adam's humanity is what God originally envisioned for everyone. So he sets the industry standard for what it means to be human (until Jesus came, raising the bar even further.)>>

I agree with this so far as it is understood within the Catholic framework. The original House with Plumbing, Electricity, and DSL, is what God envisioned for everyone; it was the industry standard. The key is that this industry standard was based on a Nature-Grace model in which Plumbing, Electricity and DSL were 'super-essential' meaning they went beyond what was the essence for a House (wood, nails, glass).

You said:
>>Now I certainly agree that we "lost" something in the Fall. But did we also "acquire" anything? In other words--in keeping with your house analogy--did anything happen to the house? Did termites invade? Did the roof become delapidated? Are their any missing shutters? Any broken windows? Any decay whatsoever?>>

We did not “acquire” anything in the sense of new features being added, but there were negative effects on the House. To add to the supernatural gifts of Plumbing, Electricity and DSL, I would add Weatherproofing Sealant (“Immortality”) as another supernatural gift to make the analogy make more sense. Along with losing those gifts – including weatherproofing sealant – the House was now directly exposed to the elements and was subject to delapadation and being hit by wind and rain, causing distress to the House.

Bad habits forming in ourselves due to continuous sins would be akin to the Door Hinges going further and further out of alignment so that it becomes harder and harder to open and close the doors. They remain doors and remain hinges, but their function takes on negative tendencies. Fighting to correct the alignment – a task which requires constant vigilance – is akin to fighting the tendencies of “the flesh”.

You said:
>>So even a run-down house in dire need of repair and renovation is still a house.>>

Correct: even a run-down house needing repair and renovation is still a house.
What is important is distinguishing 'natural renovation' with 'supernatural renovation' and note that both types of distress are relative evils rather than ontological evils. Reversing the house decaying from it being hit with different types of weather (since it lacks a supernatural Weatherproofing Seal) is a natural renovation that is not corrected in this life. What is important is that the House is inhabitable, and so God in the order of Salvation is offering to restore SOME of the super-natural features so that HE can live in it.

Nick said...

You asked:
>>But can you say exactly what was intrinsic to his nature and what was "bonus material?" I'm not sure that you can.>>

You can. Weatherproofing Sealant is analogus to Immortality. Weatherproofing is clearly a bonus, and we're feeling the effects every day of not having it. The Indwelling of God in the House is certainly another 'bonus'.

Catholic Theology distinguishes two categories of 'bonus materials':
(1) Semi-Super-Natural Gifts, called Preturnatural (these go beyond human nature, but are not divine properly speaking since angels can have them):
(a) Immortality (preventing bodily decay);
(b) Integrity (controlling the bodily passions like the natural desire for food and sex, which is why Adam and Eve could see each other naked but not be ashamed, that is seeing each other without having Lust - this is concupiscence);
(c) Infused Knowledge (granting Adam various high-level knowledge he didn't have to learn by experience and so could give Fitting names to the animals and such, and lacking this Adam would be born ignorant like a newborn baby today)

(2) Super-Natural Gifts (these are Divine)
(a) Faith, Hope, and Love
(b) Sanctifying Grace
(c) God Himself Indwelling

In the order of Salvation, God chose to restore the more crucial Super-Natural Gifts but as a lasting punishment did not restore the Preturnatural. This is akin to God not restoring Weatherproofing nor DSL but choosing to restore the more important Plumbing and Electricity.

***I realize you will likely not agree with the Catholic view nor delineation of gifts, but I trust you will at least see more clearly what is being conveyed and that the Catholic view is at least self-consistent even if you don't believe it is biblical.***

You said:
>>But what about this: Let's say God did take away some of the bonus material, for the sake of argument, so that what we have is just human nature, unadorned. (Which is what Pelagius argued, by the way--which is why you sound far more Pelagian than I do). Supposing this, did anything negative happen to that unadorned human nature?>>

Something DID happen to unadorned human nature (i.e. the House by itself), it became subject to the natural decay process (suffering and death), subject to ignorance, and subject to concupiscence (e.g. turning sex into an occasion to dominate and objectify rather than express true love).

Pelagius said Adam would have died regardless of if he sinned because he rejected adornments like immortality since his framework could not explain them. This applies to the Protestant framework though too because though they believed Adam was Immortal, they cannot explain how Weatherproof Sealing is a natural and essential attribute of wood and nails forming a House. But more critically, Pelagius said things like Faith and Love were an essential part of unadorned nature (i.e. the House by itself, not part of bonus materials), so if these were lost then the House ceases to be a house. Again, Protestants have to explain how the House remains a house without Faith and Love. To make matters worse, there is no way to explain how Super-Natural attributes like God's Love can be natural abilities for a creature.

Nick said...

You said:
>>Let's say man had a will. Let's say Adam's will was operating at peek efficiency. But after the Fall, the human will doesn't seem to work as well. We have volition, but it hardly seems "free." In fact, the Bible says we are "enslaved to sin." So is it possible that God left us with a baseline will, but then after sin invaded, the baseline will became enslaved?>>

Let's say the human will is akin to the Front Door of a House. Normal 'natural' open-and-close of the door is akin to a baseline will (as you call it). Though that is well and good, only a super-natural open-and-close is pleasing to God since it goes beyond finite natural abilities. This super-natural functionality is a well Oiled hinge of the door. After the sin, not only was Oil lost, the hinges were subject to rust and warping and thus 'enslaved' the door making *normal* (i.e. baseline) open-and-shut not easy. The only one that can correct this so that it fully opens and fully shuts is God putting Oil to the now permanently rusty hinges, and this is akin to prevenient grace that enables our Wills to get somewhat back on track but never entirely free of the rusty 'tug' towards sin.

In this sense, the Will was never destroyed (there is still a door on hinges), nor was it a fiction (the door is real), nor could it only choose sin (since it still has SOME free range on the hinges). The only way it could open and close fully and in a super-natural manner though is with Oil.

So in the Protestant (and Pelagian) framework, a “baseline will” is the highest level of operation, but in the Catholic view a “baseline will” is merely a natural will, but the graced will is an infinite step up from that baseline. In the Catholic view, Adam could do naturally good acts that were pleasing to God on a creaturely level, similar to how a horse is pleasing in God's sight by doing natural horse acts, but God demands more than that, a super-naturally pleasing act of the will on Adam's part, and God enabled Adam to do this with prevenient grace (Oil).

You asked:
>>But how do you know where to draw the line between nature and grace? How do you know which human qualities are on the "nature" side of the fence and which are on the "grace" side of the equation?>>

Simply speaking, the nature side are those things which make man a human being and have him operate within the 'realm' of creation (i.e. breath, eat, sleep), while grace (super-natural) are those things which enable man to transcend creation in a sense. Faith is akin to a telescope that enables man to see far off distant stars (divine truths) that man's natural eyes cannot see. For example, even though the Bible is in it's nature a stack of paper and ink, by Faith we see beyond the paper and ink (unlike unbelievers) to recognize and accept its Inspiration.

You said:
>>So it's not so much that we Protestants deny the distinction; rather we differ on just where to draw that line.>>

There is significant truth to this, but the proper “drawing the line” makes all the difference. If there is no line drawn, then it's akin to Pelagius' anthropology in which natural and supernatural abilities are conflated. If there is a line drawn at all, then it becomes Semi-Catholic. The Catholic side would argue that the Catholic lines are the only ones that make sense.

Catholics don't simply distinguish between 'naturally good' and 'naturally bad', they have a third distinction, which is 'super-naturally-good'. Thus, even Adam prior to the Fall needed grace in order to raise his naturally good actions to super-naturally-good actions.

Nick said...

You said:
>>In our opinion, the Fall did far more damage than Roman Catholics are willing to admit, but which non-Roman Catholics such as Augustine saw quite clearly: Sin did a number on us: It corrupted our nature and so now--prior to spiritual regeneration-- we think and make choices in accordance with that corrupted nature.>>

Augustine and Catholics would disagree and here is why: In Catholicism the Fall was literally an infinitely high fall since it fell from a super-natural (super-human) height, *particularly* in going from a House which pleased God to Indwell to losing God's Indwelling entirely. In Protestantism, the Fall brought Adam from one finite natural tier to a lower finite natural tier, which is bad, but it was not an infinitely high fall like in Catholicism.
The distinction is as huge as God disinheriting you versus Nebuchadnezzar being turned into an Ox.

You said:
>>But when we point out this out, Roman Catholics jump to the (false) conclusion that "free will" and the like are "super powers." No. We say those are the normal powers that God originally endowed humanity with, but which have been corrupted in the Fall. The redemption that the entire creation awaits is one in which that corruption will be removed (Romans 8) so that our "natural powers" will be restored.>>

As noted above, Catholics distinguish between natural powers like the Will and adorning those natural powers so they become super-natural powers. This is precisely what “walking by the Spirit” is. Acting with the Holy Spirit dwelling in your soul no longer makes those natural actions 'natural' anymore since they're now raised to super-natural heights. Loving one's wife by a natural human love (e.g. materially providing) is good, but what is super-good (pun intended) is super-naturally loving one's wife (e.g. having God's Spirit work through you to convey to her the Gospel).

You said:
>>Ah, but here's where the analogy breaks down. We have come to see corrupted human nature as *the norm* rather than abnormal. Now if very house looked like Detroit, that would be the *norm* and a functioning house (without all upgrades) would look like a "super house" in comparison. But in point of fact, Fallen humanity is more like the delapidated houses of an abandoned neighborhood in Detroit than track homes in suburbia.>>

There is a more fundamental distinction that needs to be made though: upper-class new Detroit WITH the Mayor living inside, brand-new *suburbia* Detroit, and dilapidated *suburbia* Detroit. Catholicism goes from upper-class to delapidated suburbia, while Protestants go from new suburbia to delapidated suburbia. It's way worse to go from a mansion (including the Mayor) to shack than from house to a shack. (The Mayor never lives in suburbia cookie-cutter housing)

Anonymous said...

The fact that someone would call themselves a Christian then make the idea that God has already chosen who he would save from the beginning of time the focus of their faith is strange to me. Not to say that those who express this idea are not sincere Christians. As long as your understanding of this helps you "preserver till the end" Matthew 24:13 then I suppose it wont ultimately harm you. But you're teachings are not helping bring people to Christ and the Church in a way I believe God intended. I doubt you would ever try to tell someone about Christ by leading with your predestination/election theories because you know it will be revolting to them. I agree that in many ways the way of Christ revolts the sinful flesh and so revolting people by the Gospel of Christ is going to happen. We should not dress up the Gospel in a worldly manner to draw new converts (which seems more common in protestant churches bringing in T.V. screens and entertainment etc.) but we must also remember that the Gospel is good news. It is not the good news that God already chose who would be saved before they were born. It is the good news that because of Christ we can choose the gift of faith. The view I am speaking against has also caused an unhealthy individualism that borders on narcissistic. It makes the supernatural gifts of grace and the sacraments that Jesus himself gave to us seem trivial.

Anonymous said...

.......................................................Matthew 11:28-30
New International Version (NIV)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We find our ultimate rest in God and are freed from the burden of sin by remaining in Christ's yoke.
The protestant view of election also limits the all powerful, all knowing, all loving God to an elitist idea that borders on making the work of Christ the work of a puppet. Christ chose to except crucifixion. Out of obedience. Is it so out of the realm of your imagination that in his divine, all seeing knowledge God chose to turn a blind eye to his view of us from outside of eternity and participate with us on a moment to moment basis? Does that limit the scope of his power any more than saying his only option was to eternally decree salvation and damnation on specific individuals eternally? This seems to me to be an extremely “human” way of looking at it.

God does not change. But the fact that this world exists means that at some point he willed into being something that wasn't originally there. The human soul was not eternal in the sense that God is eternal. That is a Hindu idea. The human soul had a beginning. That in itself is a type of "change" within the eternal being of God since all things are within God in a sense. God's character is unchangeable. But his ways are not our ways which means he did not have to have a plan that was set in stone for all eternity for existence and salvation to make sense. Although God sees everything, which is ultimately unfathomable to finite beings, he is only truly available to us in the present. God exists for us only in the present. "We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: 'In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2). Christ died in time to destroy the death and time created by sin. To abide in Christ is to abide in that which is outside of time and thus abide in eternity. There is nothing outside of God's existence. PSALM 139:8


Also I have to agree with Nick that there are key passages in Romans that are specifically aimed at the Jews and the dynamic of the original covenant set up with with Abraham. A covenant they some of them misinterpreted which is why the were outraged at the idea of Gentiles being a part of it. The fact that simple human acts such as baptism, breaking bread, drinking wine, confessing our sins,
helping others, and controlling our bodies with the intent of closer communion with God are all tools in which to help us “work” our way into heaven exist in spite of the unfathomable amount of sin that has taken place throughout the ages is pure grace.


I am new to Catholicism and I hope nothing I said is taken the wrong way or out of spirit of pride. At the end of the day I hope and believe that I will see you both in heaven someday.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Dear Nick,

I am a Reformational Christian
and wish to respectfully submit the following comments:

Romans 7:7--in both the Greek and the Vulgate--says, "Thou shalt not lust." Thus, God says that lust--concupiscence--is itself sin. It is called sin 14 times in Romans 7–-even in the case of the Christian.

The Reformers (with the sole exception of Zwingli) faithfully taught this biblical--and catholic--truth, which was also taught by the Early Fathers and the Eastern Church.

This truth was condemned by the Council of Trent (in spite of vocal opposition from within the Council). Trent condemned the teaching of God’s law and also thereby excommunicated itself.

Tridentine catholicism, Roman catholicism, is therefore not true catholicism.

The Reformer’s taught that the Christian needs the continual forgiveness of sins because he continually lusts. This was part of their doctrine of justification by faith.

To deny this is to be a Pharisee, thanking God that one is superior to his pagan neighbor (cf. Luke 18:19-14).

Sincerely,
Keith Fredrickson

Nick said...

Hello Keith,

Thanks for your post.

I think the main mistake you're making is incorrectly defining lust and concupiscence and sin. Terms must be carefully and properly defined.

Lust can refer to various thing. In the case of Rom 7:7, it is understood as coveting. But to say "thou shalt not covet" is not the same as saying someone actually coveted.

Concupiscence is a disordered desire for the body's material needs (e.g. food, sex). It tempts the person but it is not sin in and of itself. A cardinal proof of this is James 1:12-15 that shows concupiscence is not the same as sin. The Reformers misunderstood this and fell into a form of the Manichean heresy.

Sin, in the proper sense, is an act of the will, deliberately turning away from God in a specific act. You sin only when you give into temptation, not before.

I assure you that the Early Fathers and Easter Church did not teach what you're saying. I'll even challenge you to produce proof of your claim.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Dear Nick,

Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent (no surprise at all) response.

Per your request, here is some of the evidence:

Here are two selections from *The Shepherd of Hermas*:

"With a smile she replied to me, The desire of wickedness arose within your heart. Is it not your opinion that it is an evil deed for a righteous man, if the evil desire should enter into his heart? There is sin in such a case, and the sin is great, said she; for the thoughts of a righteous man should be righteous. . . . perhaps a desire after her has arisen within your heart. . . . it is a wicked and horrible wish in an all-chaste and already well-tried spirit.For this hateful thought ought not to be in a servant of God, nor ought a well-tried spirit to desire an evil deed; and especially for Hermas so to do, who keeps himself from all wicked desire, and is full of all simplicity, and of great guilelessness."
– I:1:1 and 2

"let not a thought enter into thy heart concerning another’s wife, or concerning fornication, or concerning any such like evil deeds. . . For this desire in a servant of God is a great sin."
– M:4:1

This is precisely Luther’s position, the exact doctrine anathematized by Trent.

And now words of Augustine:

"How can any man be so impudent and imprudent, so obstinate, obdurate, and obstructive, finally so foolish and beside himself as to confess that sins are evil and yet deny that the lust for sins is evil, even when the spirit lusting against it does not permit it to conceive and give birth to sins? Must not an evil of this kind and so great bind man in death and carry him to final death merely because it is in him, unless its bond be loosed in that remission of all sins which is accomplished in baptism?"
– *Against Julian*, 6:15:48

Another translation of the second sentence:

"Moreover, such and so great an evil, from the very fact of its being in us, would it not certainly hold us under sentence of death, and drag us down to final death, unless its chain were loosened by that remission of all sins which is made in baptism?"

And some more profound words of Augustine (with my humble versification, which may not come across very well):

"What saith the Law? . . .
I bring forward one small and short precept . . .
a very small one;
let us see who is sufficient for it.
'Thou shalt not lust.'*
What is this, Brethren?
We have heard the Law;
if there be no grace, thou hast heard thy punishment. . . .
why dost thou boast to me of innocence? . . .
Thou canst say, 'I have not plundered the goods of others . . .'
Thou hast heard, 'Thou shalt not lust.'
'I do not go in to another man’s wife'
Thou hast heard, 'Thou shalt not lust.'
Why dost thou inspect thyself all round without,
and dost not inspect within? . . .
Descend into thine own self.
Thou wilt ‘see another law in thy members
resisting the law of thy mind,
and bringing thee into captivity
in the law of sin which is in thy members**.'”
– _Sermons on the New Testament_, 95 (145):3
(on John 16:24 and Luke 10:17)
* Romans 7:7
** Romans 7:23

Thus, I do not see any great exaggeration in last sentence of the following historic words:

"concupiscence [is] sin, which, nevertheless, is not imputed to those who are in Christ, although by nature it is a matter worthy of death where it is not forgiven. Thus, beyond all controversy, the Fathers believe."
– *Apology for the Augsburg Confession* (Lutheran confession; 1537), II ("Of Original Sin")

With sincere regards,
Keith Fredrickson

Keith Fredrickson said...

Dear Nick,

With regard to James 1:12-15, in which "sin" in this case is distinguished from "lust", "sin" here admittedly means sin involving some consent of the will. However, James does not thereby exclude the possibility that lusting is itself "sin" in the sense of *involuntary* sin. And he does clearly imply in this passage that lust is itself sin in two ways: (1) By stating that lust "conceives" and "gives birth" to sin, he speaks of lust as the mother of sin. Now, if the child is sinful, then so is the mother. (Recall the similar argument: "If the Father is true God, then so is the Son.") (2) By emphatically denying that God is the author of lust, he also clearly implies that lust is sinful.

Thus, James 1:12-15, far from refuting the position of the Reformers, actually gives some support to it.

And, regarding involuntary sin and the Eastern Church, I refer you to the *Eucharist of The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom*, whereby Christians have prayed for centuries, "have mercy upon me and pardon my transgressions, voluntary and involuntary".

Regards,
Keith

Nick said...

Hello Keith,

Here are my thoughts on those texts.

The Shepherd of Hermas quote is not talking about concupiscence. The very language in the quote and the context show why this sin in question was so grave because the upright should not have adulterous thoughts. Hermas is even told "it is a wicked and horrible wish in an all-chaste and already well-tried spirit to desire an evil deed; and especially for Hermas so to do, who keeps himself from all wicked desire, and is full of all simplicity, and of great guilelessness"
This goes against the idea one is continuously sinning by the mere presence of temptation.

As for your Augustine quote Against Julian, the very context proves exactly what I originally said:
"The Apostle James says: 'Everyone is tempted by his being drawn away and enticed by his own concupiscence. Then when concupiscence has conceived, it brings forth sin.' These words distinguish the thing brought forth from the one giving birth. The one giving birth is
concupiscence; the thing brought forth is sin. But concupiscence does not give birth unless it conceives; it does not conceive unless it entices, that is, unless it obtains willing consent to commit evil. Therefore, man's battle against concupiscence consists in keeping it from conceiving and giving birth to sin.
If concupiscence also is consumed when all sins, that is, all the brood of concupiscence, have been remitted in baptism, how, in your words, will the saints fight to keep it from conceiving, 'in bruises of the body and the squalor of the members, the mortification of the flesh'? How, I say, will the saints wage war against concupiscence with bruises, squalor, and mortification of the temple of God, if concupiscence itself is taken away by baptism? Concupiscence, then, remains; nor do we lose it in the laver of regeneration, if we did not lose there the sense by which we perceive that it remains."

These Augustinian texts are some of the chief patristic texts from which the Catholic understanding of concupiscence is testified to. He quotes the cardinal text of James 1:12ff and makes it clear that concupiscence is not sin itself, only the temptation, and it only becomes sin when willfully consented to.

The Augsburg Confession quote is essentially a Manichean understanding of nature, which St Augustine would have condemned. The idea of concupiscence being a continuous sin in us that can only be dealt with by a continuous non-imputation by God is a notion foreign to Scripture and the Fathers.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Dear Nick,

Granted, the passages from *The Shepherd of Hermas* do not explicitly teach continual sinning by lusting, but they do clearly teach that the mere spontaneous *arising* in or *entrance* into the Christian's heart of "evil desire" is "an evil deed" and a "great sin."

These passages and *Eucharist of The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom* flatly contradict the Roman Catholic magisterium in its teaching that sin is not sin if it is not voluntary, if it does not entail consent of the will.

Also, it should not be missed that Augustine's words against Julian explicitly state that "the lust for sins is evil" even when not consented to and that "an evil of this kind and so great" *must* "bind man in death and carry him to final death merely because it is in him" apart from the "remission of all sins." Thus, in Augustine’s thought, lust itself deserves "final death," everlasting punishment.

And, is not Augustine clearly correct (in the versified sermon selection) when he finds "Thou shalt not lust" in Romans 7:7 and sees "the law of sin" in 7:23 as a reference to lust? Is not the implication of this, namely, that Paul calls lust "sin" fourteen times in Romans 7, certainly true?

When the Roman magisterium says that the Apostle calls lust "sin" but that it is not "truly" sin, does this not resemble the statement of the Arians that Jesus is called God in the New Testament (that He is God in name), but that He is nevertheless not truly God?

How can the Lutheran-Reformed doctrine that Adam’s sinful exercise of free will resulted in the total corruption of the whole man, man as a soul-body unity, be characterized as "Manichean" when it affirms that, prior to this first sin, the whole man, including his body, was the "very good" creation of an infinitely good God? Is it not Rome that at least tolerates the teaching that Adam’s lower nature had tendencies toward sin even before the Fall?

Scripture says, "Thou shalt not lust" and "the flesh [continually] lusts against the spirit [or Spirit] (Galatians 5:17)." Therefore, the Christian, who is "carnal, sold under sin" (Romans 7:14), sins continually and thus stands in constant need of the forgiveness of a merciful God on the basis of Christ’s finished work-—a forgiveness for which Reformational Christians are profoundly grateful.

Regards,
Keith

Nick said...

I don't think you're being careful with terminology here. For example "lust" can be used to refer either to concupiscence (temptation) or a volitional act (wilful sin).

So the Catholic point is not to say that lust is not "truly" sin as if we're pretending it's not sin. What it means is that concupicipal lust is not of the same form/type/essence of volitional lust. So you can call concupicipal lust "sin" as long as you're careful to note it is not the ordinary way "sin" is used.

Your Arian example actually fits in quite well here, because you can say "Jesus is God" and be either orthodox or heterodox depending on what you mean. The way the term "God" is used overwhelmingly in the New Testament refers to the Person of God the Father. So it is very wrong to think "Jesus is God" when "God" is understood as God the Father. The reason why Jehovah's Witnesses don't like the Christian reading of John 1:1 is because they think we're saying it means "Jesus is God the Father". Rather, John 1:1c is using "theos" (God) in a non-typical manner to refer to Divine.

The reason why the Lutheran-Reformed view is a Pelagian-Manichean hybrid is because they have an incorrect view of nature to begin with. The problem is not that man started off "very good," but that man became something intrinsically "very bad". That's where Manichean principles arise. What does it mean that man is now "very bad"? If that means man has or is something ontologically evil/bad/sinful, then God is holding something ontologically evil in existence, making him not only the author of sin, but the sustainer of sin. Since this is absurd, the Manicheans ventured to say there was a duality in the universe, a good deity and an evil deity.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Dear Nick,

The Greek word for "lust" found in Romans 7:7 and Galatians 5:17, "epithumeo," clearly refers to concupiscence rather than volitional sin, as the following Vulgate translations show:

"Thou shalt not lust" (Romans 7:7): "non concupisces"

"the flesh lusts against the spirit" (Galatians 5:17): "caro enim concupiscit adversus spiritum"

We agree that, (1) even though "God" in the New Testament frequently means "God the Father," it sometimes denotes the Son, and thus (2) the Son is *as much* God as is the Father. Therefore, even if "sin" usually means volitional sin in the New Testament, this is no reason at all to affirm that the word is metaphorical when Paul uses it 14 times to denote lust in
Romans 7. "Sin" clearly means "true sin," which deserves everlasting punishment (although not the same degree as volitional sin), throughout Romans 7--just as "God" in John 20:28 means "true God" rather than "God in name" as the Arians contended.

The Reformation consistently affirmed that the sinfulness of man's nature is "accidental" in the theological/philosophical sense and denied that man is "ontologically" or essentially sinful. The Reformed did this by affirming that the image of God in the broader sense of man's essence as a personal being continued notwithstanding his complete loss of the image of God in the narrower sense of righteousness and holiness. Admittedly, the doctrine of the sinfulness of man's essence did arise within Lutheranism through the hyper-zealous theologian Matthias Flacius. However, his error was decisively rejected by the Lutheran *Formula of Concord*, thus aquitting Lutheranism of any charge of Manichaeism. And both branches of the Reformation decisively rejected the idea that God is the author or cause of sin.

Regards,
Keith

Nick said...

Keith,

You said "this is no reason at all to affirm that the word is metaphorical"

I don't like the term "metaphorical" to describe concupiscence because it is inaccurate. What I'm saying is that the term "sin" can have two real (non-metaphorical) meanings, the first being volitional sin and the second meaning concupiscience.

As for your claim that man is sinful in the sense he LACKS the quality of righteousness, that more properly is to be seen as man is neutral (denuded of positive righteousness) rather than positively sinful. In crude terms, the accidental righteousness brings man from a "0" to a "+1" state while losing the accidental righteousness causes him to fall from a "+1" to a "0" state. Man can never go to a "-1" state, essentially or accidentally, which would be Manichean. But Protestantism views fallen man as being in a perpetual "-1" state, with this simply being perpetually 'not-imputed' for Believers.

Concupiscence will be viewed very differently depending on if you see fallen man at a "0" versus at a "-1" state.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Nick,

In pondering your last posting, two questions have come to mind:

Is the sinfulness of all sin the mere absence of righteousness?

Is the punishment of hell the mere absence of the blessedness of heaven?

Regards,
Keith

Nick said...

Hello Keith,

(1) Speaking of Original Sin, this refers to the absence of the quality of divine righteousness. This is what makes a person literally in communion/relationship with God. As an analogy, if my soul separated from my body, I'd be life-less.

This is different from another kind of sin, Actual Sin, which refers to sinful actions you commit by the use of your will. This is when you choose to violate a commandment.

(2) Given that distinction above, there is a twofold punishment that one can experience. When one is in a state of mortal sin, this is when they lack the quality of divine righteousness in them. They are cut off from being in a relationship with God. That's one kind of punishment, a punishment of 'missing out' if you will.

The second type of punishment corresponds to Actual Sin. It is a punishment that inflicts a pain corresponding to the Just proportion to how severe of sins you chose to commit. So a person who steals a piece of candy would suffer a minor pain in comparison to someone who murdered who would suffer a serious pain.

A person who dies in Original Sin ALONE (e.g. an unbaptized baby) would not endure 'pain' because they have not committed any Actual Sin so there is no corresponding punishment they will 'feel'. But they will experience the 'missing out' or 'loss' of being in the special intimate communion with God that only Divine Righteousness infused in your soul enables you to have.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Nick,

I wish to belatedly thank you for your most recent comment and all of your thoughtful words in response to my postings.

Looking forward to further discussion.

Regards,
Keith

Keith Fredrickson said...

Nick,

I find in the following words from Romans, taken together and in the context of the chapters in which they are found, strong support for the Reformational doctrine that even the human body, in its lawless passions and lustings, is sinful in the sight of God.

"the body of sin" (6:6)

"sin in the lusts of the body"* or "the lusts of the body" (6:12) (with "Thou shalt not lust" in 7:7)

"the passions of sins . . . worked in our members" (7:5)

"another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind . . . the law of sin which is in my members" (7:23)

"body of death" (7:24)

"sinful flesh . . . sin in the flesh" (8:3)

*reading in the text of the Eastern Church

I see in these words the Christian's need for the continual forgiveness of sins.

How does a Roman Catholic understand these words?

Is Rome's interpretation a departure from its commitment to literalism?

Regards,
Keith

Nick said...

Hello Keith,

Let's look at some of those verses you quote.

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

If you take this "body of sin" as some ontological reality, then the notion of "our old self" and "crucified" and "brought to nothing" and "no longer enslaved" become nonsense.

Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

Here Paul commands Christians to not let sin reign, to resist it's temptations. That makes no sense if the body is intrinsically sinful, since it could not be resisted at all.

Romans 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

Paul is speaking of the past: in the past they were "living in the flesh" and enslaved to passions.

You referenced part of v23-24, but I'm quoting them in full, along with context:
Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Paul says there is an inner battle going on - something which is nonsense if concupiscence is an objectively sinful aspect of being. Paul could never say "I delight in the law of God in my inner being" and "I myself serve God with my mind" if there was nothing good about his nature.

All these text go to show that a Christian can take their passions under control, true self-control, resisting lusts, and striving to be holy. This makes absolutely no sense if a man is ontologically sinful and cannot change.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Nick,

As I continue to mull over your recent comments, I wonder how you might define the following terms:

"the body of sin" (6:6)

"body of death" (7:24)

"sinful flesh" (8:3)

Regards,
Keith

Keith Fredrickson said...

Nick,

Say, unless I am mistaken, I just ran across something that is relevant to our discussion.

I believe that Epiphanius of Salamis, in his *Panarion* (62:8)
quotes the following comment on "body of sin" in Romans 7:24 by Methodius of Olympus (martyred c. 311): "the sin which lives [within] the body through lust is death."

Regards,
Keith

Keith Fredrickson said...

As you probably surmised, in my previous post, I meant "body of death" rather than "body of sin."

Keith Fredrickson said...

Nick,

If I might, I wish to reaffirm at this point that the Reformation views man's sinful nature as distinct from his essence (which admittedly cannot change). It is an accidental (in the philosophical sense) quality. (I surmise that Roman Catholicism considers this distinction to be without meaning. ) We do agree that the idea that man is "ontologically (that is, 'essentially,' in the philosophical sense) sinful" is as nonsensical as a square circle. Notwithstanding the Fall, man is remains man. However, he is now sinful man, man who possesses a sinful spiritual character, one that includes a continual inclination toward sin.

Regards,
Keith

Nick said...

By ontologically, I meant 'really existing', even if it's an accidental quality. The point is, sin/sinfulness are not actual things/beings. To say man's nature is sinful as an accidental quality is still a problem. It would be like saying brown hair, blue eyes, tan skin, and big feet could be sin/sinful in some sense, which is wrong and absurd.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Do any statements in Denzinger come to mind that are closely related to our discussion at this point?

Nick said...

I'm not well versed with Denzinger, but I have consulted Sections #1001 onward, which is Pope St Pius V condemning the Errors of Michael Du Bay (Baius). Baius was a Catholic who embraced Calvinistic errors. Here are some of the CONDEMNED propositions:

-1002 2. Just as an evil work by its nature is deserving of eternal death, so a good work by its own nature is meritorious of eternal life.

-1021 21. The sublimation and exaltation of human nature in participation with the divine nature has been due to the integrity of the first condition, and hence must be called natural, and not supernatural.

-1023 23. Absurd is the opinion of those who say that man from the beginning, by a certain supernatural and gratuitous gift, was raised above the condition of his nature, so that by faith, hope, and charity he cherished God supernaturally.

-1025 25. All works of infidels are sins, and the virtues of philosophers are vices.

-1034 34. That distinction of a twofold love, namely a natural one, by which God is loved as the author of nature, and of a gratuitous love, by which God is loved as one who blesses, is vain and false and devised to ridicule the sacred literature and most of the testimonies of the ancients.

-1050 50. Bad desires, to which reason does not consent, and which man unwillingly suffers, are prohibited by the precept: "Thou shalt not covet" [cf. Exod. 20:17].

-1051 51. Concupiscence, whether the law of the members, and its depraved desires which men experience against their will, are the true disobediences of the law.

-1075 75. The bad impulses of concupiscence in the state of depraved man are prohibited by the precept: "Thou shalt not covet" [Exod. 20:17]. hence, a man aware of these and not consenting, transgresses the precept: "Thou shalt not covet," although the transgression is not to be classed as a sin.

-1078 78. The immortality of the first man was not a benefit of grace, but a natural condition.

Keith Fredrickson said...

Thank you, Nick.

I studied a number of these a few years ago. I am pondering them all
now.

Keith

Keith Fredrickson said...

Nick,

On March 4 you wrote, "What does it mean that man is now 'very bad'? If that means man has or is something ontologically evil/bad/sinful, then God is holding something ontologically evil in existence, making him not only the author of sin, but the sustainer of sin."

Would you say that your words are consistent with the following statements of Aquinas (which I just recently came across and strongly agree with):

"The act of sin is both a being and an act; and in both respects it is from God. . . . God is the cause of every action, in so far as it is an action. . . . God is the cause of the act of sin: and yet He is not the cause of sin,
because He does not cause the act to have a defect."
*Summa*, "First Part of the Second Part," Question 79

Regards,
Keith

Anonymous said...

Nick, is there a good book on this subject?