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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Are all men "under the Law"? (Exposing another fatal flaw in Calvinism)

Calvinists teach that all mankind is under a "covenant of works," where eternal life is promised to those who keep the law of God perfectly. But this leads to a problem. If all mankind is "under the law," then why does St Paul speak as if only some are "under the law" and warn others not to put themselves "under the law"? This post will expose a very serious and fatal equivocation that is at the root of Calvinist theology.

Consider these passages from the Epistle to the Galatians:
  • But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Gal 4:4-5)
  • Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? (Gal 4:21)
  • I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. (Gal 5:3)
It should be pretty obvious that the "law" here has to mean the same thing in each passage (since it's the same context). Whatever this "law" is, it is clear that not everyone is "under" it, meaning bound to observe it. If this "law" is the 'covenant of works' which all men are born into, then this contradicts the Calvinist notion that all men are under the "covenant of works," since it is clear by these texts not all men are "under the law". The only acceptable answer here is that the "law" is none other than the Mosaic Law, which not all men are under, and one only becomes obliged to obey it if one is circumcised (e.g. Jesus only became "under the law" at His circumcision).

The ramifications for realizing this are huge: Since the "law" Paul is opposing cannot be the "covenant of works," it logically follows that Paul's warning about getting circumcised and putting oneself "under the law" could not have been a matter of people thinking they could 'work their way to heaven'. So the Calvinist is in a bind: either equivocate by equating "law" and "covenant of works" and thus claim not everyone is under the "covenant of works," or else admit "law" is the Mosaic Law and thus deny keeping the Mosaic Law has any bearing on salvation (since that's the task of the "covenant of works")

18 comments:

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Calvinism to me is nothing more than a Judaizing cult. The emphasis is on the Mosaic law as a means of salvation, instead of grace followed up by obedience to the teachings of Christ. It is pathetic that so-called 'reformers' like Calvin think reforming the church means restoring part of or all of the Mosaic law to the deposit of faith.
Judaizing has always been a constant threat to the church. One only has to read Rabbi Newman's "Jewish Influence On Christian Reform Movements" to understand that most of the heresies that have bedeviled the Church had their origin in Judaizing concepts pushed by people who were Jewish in origin, or non-Jews who were influenced by them.

Nick said...

It truly is baffling to me how there is a strong Judaizing element very much alive and embedded in Protestant theology. In my experience, the driving force is anti-Catholicism, which fosters the attitude of "anything but Catholicism," which leads to embracing and espousing things that are absurd and even dangerous.

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Nick, the Pope who led the Rosary crusade that led to the victory at Lepanto said that Judaism was the seedbag of nearly all of the heresies that has bedeviled the church since day one.
Two other books that give an excellent overview of the Judaizing problem is "The Plot Against The Church". It covers the same ground as Newman's book from a Christian perspective. The other book is William Thomas Walsh's "Phillip II". Walsh has a lot of information about early Protestantism and it's interactions with the Jews. I'd get both books to fill in the gaps of your reformation history.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

The covenant of works in Reformed theology refers to the relationship between God and humanity represented by Adam in Eden, who broke that covenant when he partook of the forbidden fruit. Today the covenant of works is simply the moral law which is inscribed in the heart of man. In Roman Catholic categories, this is the natural law.

But this is *not* what Paul had directly n mind when he said we are under "grace" rather than "law." Rather Paul seems to have had the specifics of the Mosaic Law in mind. To be sure--there are overlaps between the laws of Moses and the natural law. But Paul's point seems to be not that we can now just ignore the law (antinomianism), but rather that it is no longer a checklist of obligations and avoidances that form the basis of our righteousness before God.

As for the comments of "scotju," and your tacit approval of them--I'd say the two of you are far more in danger of crossing the line into anti-semitism than we are of becoming "Judiazers."

And while I'll be the first to admit that there are legalistic strains of Protestantism out there, the same can be said of Roman Catholicism which has, in many ways, recreated the very dynamics of works righteousness that the Gospel is intended to overcome. Further, when we look at the rituals and order of worship in Romanism, we find remarkable parallels to that of Jewish worship and rituals. This is not--by itself--a problem. In fact, it may be a good think, since there ought to be a continuity between the Old and New covenants and Old and New covenant peoples. But one often sees in the history of liturgical development and even theology a deliberate attempt to pattern things on OT institutions. And this in itself could be seen as a kind of Judiazing.

Examples you say? The Roman priesthood. Since there is no ordained cultic priesthood in the New Testament, Rome has been forced to find precedents in the OT. Another? Baptism. RCs (and many Prots too) justify infant baptism on the grounds that it is parallel to circumcision. If that's not Judiazing, I don't know what is.

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Mr Taylor, your charge of Nick and myself "crossing the line into anti-semetism" is patently absurd. Catholicism rejected the law of Moses at the first church council. It has rejected and condemned any form of Judaizing or Jew supported heresy since that council. Yet many people, like yourself, will call it 'anti-semetism'. So, Mr. Taylor, are you asking Christians, especially Catholics, to roll over and play dead when false brethren, like the Marranos, subvert and attack the faith? Sorry man, but that's not an option for me. It wasn't an option for Paul either. He wrote an epistle called Galatians, which would have gotten him branded as an 'anti-semite' by the ADL and misguided Judaizing Christians if it was written today.
As a person who discovered he was a Marrano descendant, I have read a lot of books and articles by Jewish and Catholic historians about the Marranos, to understand my family history. Those show that the Marranos were a big influence on the Reformers. Many historians believe Calvin, and some of his confederates, were Marrano Jews themselves. so, as I see it, the problem is not 'anti-semetism'on my part or Nick's, but Judaizing or knee-jerk philo-semetism on the part of Protestantism.

cwdlaw223 said...

Mr. Taylor -

What works? RC Sproul throws the "works religion" around all the time as well and yet since my conversion from Reformed Theology to Catholicism I've never, ever been told that I can work my way into heaven. If you mean by work that someone must use effort to maintain a Christian life then we are guilty as charged.

As I said before, RC Sproul's tapes on Catholicism were instrumental in my conversion. He admitted that the "works" that caused a problem during the Reformation were those associated with penance. The Reformers didn't want to be punished for the temporal effect of their sin. Do you believe that there should be no punishment for the temporal effect of sin? That's the effect of Sproul's anti-works comment.

Michael Taylor said...

>>RC Sproul throws the "works religion" around all the time as well and yet since my conversion from Reformed Theology to Catholicism I've never, ever been told that I can work my way into heaven.<<

Nor am I accusing Roman Catholicism of holding this view. You seem to be reading quite a bit into my comments.

>>If you mean by work that someone must use effort to maintain a Christian life then we are guilty as charged.<<

Agreed. But it's one thing to put effort into our walk. It's quite another to say that the effort can merit our own salvation.

>>He [Sproul] admitted that the "works" that caused a problem during the Reformation were those associated with penance.<<

Yes. But there is more to it than that. The real issue boils down to whether salvation is monergistic (a work of one) or synergistic (God and man working in tandem). Historic Protestantism sees salvation as monergistic. Romanism and Protestant Arminianism are synergistic.

>>The Reformers didn't want to be punished for the temporal effect of their sin.<<

Not so. The Reformers were great champions of the rule of law in society and would be the first to say that the government has the right to punish evil. What they rejected was the idea that God's forgiveness was only partial--that we have to make personal atonement for sin. Why? Because such would be double jeopardy. If Christ already atoned for the punishment due to sin, then to say we also have to suffer would be contrary to any standard of justice.

>>Do you believe that there should be no punishment for the temporal effect of sin?<<

No. But I also don't believe I can "atone" for my sins. Christ did that for me. Does that mean, however, that I thereby escape the natural cause-and-effect *consequences* of my sin? Obviously not. But consequences and imposed punishments (penances) in this life or purgatory are not the same thing.

Nick said...

I'm trying to catch up here after not being able to get to my mail/blog the last few days.


Miguel,
It is wrong to equate the Covenant of Works with the moral law or (especially) Natural Law. But more to the point, I don't see how you really addressed my point. Either the "Law" Paul has in mind and warning Christians not to "go under" is the Covenant of Works or it isn't. Your comments about antinomianism seem to confirm, indirectly, the problem at hand. There is a lot riding on this because it will directly impact how you then must read Romans and Galatians, which will directly impact whether or not it's possible to read "faith alone" into them.

If all men are already "under the law," when interpreting "law" as the CoW, then Paul's warnings and writings make no sense.

I don't agree with the charge of anti-semitism, nor do I agree with everything Steve says. I welcome all sorts of thoughts though, even ones that might come off as insensitive to modern ears. It is wrong to think Jews are behind every evil in the world, but I don't think Steve was saying this either.

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Nick, you're correct that I don't believe Jews are behind every evil in the world. The history contained in the Sacred Scripture show both Jews and Gentiles committing evil acts.
However, if a historian can prove that Jewish individuals or groups were behind or supporting various religious or secular movements to the determent of the Church and society in general, I will except his or her evidence. As I have already stated, I'e delved into a lot of Jewish history to understand my own family history. The picture I have of the history of the Jews is they don't really want to be around non-Jews, especially Christians. They deal with this in several ways. One, they form isolated communities to kept away from non-Jews. Or,like my Marrano ancestors, they hide their real identity and pass as regular members of the community, while practicing Judaism in secret. Then, there were some who wanted power or revenge against the developing Christian world. These are the Jews who get involved in the movements mentioned in Rabbi Newman's book. And when their plans are exposed, the anger of the communities that are affected by their schemes falls on all the Jews. Like that old rabbi told Leon Trotsky, " The Trotsky's make the revolution, but the Bronshtein's (meaning the ordinary Jew) pays the price.

Anonymous said...

I like your blog. I keep trying to
reach Protestants about the falsehood of "faith alone" and they're stuck on "faith alone", never wanting to let it go no matter what you say.

The Protestant and Catholic private revelation, they are both saying the same thing, the Catholic messages more explicit for a reason.

Our Lord is correcting Protestant
heresy in His messages to the Protestant Prophets.

Another one, posted yesterday, Jesus states "imputation" is a lie. Thought I would share. Read other messages given Kevin Barrett. He's receiving corrections on heresies.

So far...Our Lord has explained to Kevin four falsehoods in Kevin's messages.

1. Faith Alone
2. the one time altar call justifies
3. the lie of the prosperity Gospel
4. Rapture
5. latest...imputation

message to Kevin Barrett

Posted: 10/10/2012

Word of the Lord:

...Many, I tell you, will be abased in these days as they have exalted themselves above others...

I love you, My dear children, with an everlasting love and do not desire for any to miss out on your inheritance in Me and your true destiny. But unfortunately, many will forsake their inheritance for the pleasures of this world and praises of men. For if you are to follow Me, you will be hated by many. Did I not already tell you of these things in My word? Then why do many of you think that Christianity is a walk in the park? Many of you have believed the lies of the enemy for too long. For now is the time for all that has been hidden to be exposed. And I shall expose the lies of the enemy for what they are. AND MANY OF YOU WILL BE SHOCKED AND DISMAYED AS YOU FIND THAT YOU ARE NAKED AND BLIND WHILE CLAIMING THAT YOU SEE AND ARE CLOTHED WITH MY RIGHTEOUSNESS. Oh, My dear little ones, how I weep for you. You have followed after the enemy of your soul for too long. You do not have the truth that would set you free. ...

http://www.hearhisheart.wordpress.com

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

Honestly, I don't think I'm following you here at all:

>>It is wrong to equate the Covenant of Works with the moral law or (especially) Natural Law.<<

I'm not equating them. But there are definite overlaps. So on what basis do you say it is wrong? You just stated this, but didn't explain why.

>> Either the "Law" Paul has in mind and warning Christians not to "go under" is the Covenant of Works or it isn't.<<

It's not.

>>If all men are already "under the law,"<<

All men aren't "under the law." From where did you get this idea?




cwdlaw223 said...

Michael -

"Yes. But there is more to it than that. The real issue boils down to whether salvation is monergistic (a work of one) or synergistic (God and man working in tandem). Historic Protestantism sees salvation as monergistic. Romanism and Protestant Arminianism are synergistic."

Not true according to Sproul in his tapes on Catholicism. He says this is THE issue for the Reformation.

Speaking of history, who in history held the Protestant view on salvation since the beginning of Christendom? There is NO proto-protestant church and no proto-protestant interpretation of scripture (really Romans if you ask me) for 1,500 years. I believe that if one is intellectually honest that the only conclusion that can be drawn from Calvin/Luther is that Christ failed with his Church (which was clearly Roman Catholic and sacerdotal and synergistic to the core) and therefore he is a false prophet.

A Protestant, like the Mormons, has to conclude that Rome failed despite the protections guaranteed by Christ to his church. If the church was wrong about soteriology, ecclesiology and the sacraments for 1,500 it was an utter and complete failure. Of course, one could redefine the definition of church (call it invisible???) to get around this massive epistemological problem.

Either Christ failed with Rome or he didn't. There is no other choice using scripture alone. Protestantism puts its belief in no church except the church of man and his own interpretations.

cwdlaw223 said...

Michael -

The Reformers rejected the priestly class. The Reformation was a far greater political movement than a theological movement. The reason penance was attacked because only a priest could administer penance. The Reformers wanted to be the priests and have the power. Luther was desperately afraid of the masses interpreting scripture on their own all alone (excuse the pun).

cwdlaw223 said...

Michael -

"No. But I also don't believe I can "atone" for my sins. Christ did that for me. Does that mean, however, that I thereby escape the natural cause-and-effect *consequences* of my sin? Obviously not. But consequences and imposed punishments (penances) in this life or purgatory are not the same thing."

So in your world you don't have to deal with the temporal effects of sin on this earth as part of true contrition? You're already saved regardless of the sins you commit and the actions you take?

Purgatory is for those who are already saved. You aren't "almost saved" in purgatory or can work you way out of hell in purgatory. It's more of a process than a place and not really relevant in this discussion.

Nick said...

Hello Miguel,

I'm still having internet problems, so I'm still getting behind on responses lately.

You said: "I'm not equating them [the CoW with the Moral Law or Natural Law]. But there are definite overlaps. So on what basis do you say it is wrong? You just stated this, but didn't explain why."

Nick: I don't think you are distinguishing those terms/categories properly and thus conflating (even if not fully) those respective laws. For example, the Covenant of Works was a 'gift' of sorts to man, promising eternal life for perfect obedience to God's laws, since man was already bound to keep God's Laws and was not (originally) to be 'owed' anything for keeping them. Given that, there is no 'overlap' between various laws, since the issue is strictly a matter of whether one is in or out of the CoW in the first place. So keeping God's Laws perfectly *outside* of the CoW would not grant eternal life, despite the fact the CoW includes ('overlaps') all of God's Laws.

If what I'm saying here makes sense, then you can carry this over to the Mosaic Covenant (Law). It doesn't matter what commands are the same in any two systems, what matters is what the respective system promises for obedience. Thus, conflating the CoW with Mosaic Covenant is a serious error, and this is borne out even when equating the CoW to the moral law.

The subject of Natural Law doesn't quite fit into this picture, both because Protestants cannot agree if there even is such a thing, and even if they agree that there is, the Natural Law does not promise eternal life if kept perfectly.


I said in my last comment >>Either the "Law" Paul has in mind and warning Christians not to "go under" is the Covenant of Works or it isn't.<<

You responded: It's not.

Nick: That's good that you say that, since this is what I'm saying as well. The problem is you now have to distinguish the Mosaic Law from the CoW and in doing so explain why people were trying to enter the ML and when inside earn their salvation by works when they knew the ML never offered eternal life.


You said: All men aren't "under the law." From where did you get this idea?

Nick: I got this idea from the way Protestants read Romans and Galatians. They want to say all men are obligated to keep "the law," and yet one cannot be obligated to keep "the law" unless they are "under the law". This in turn raises the question on when/how a person is supposed to practice "works righteousness"...do they do so "under the law" or not? If not, then Paul's warnings about going "under the Mosaic Law" are nonsense and irrelevant. It would as if people were trying to be justified under the CoW and yet Paul spends all his time speaking about Japanese Law...it would be non-sequitor and irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

>>Who in history held the Protestant view on salvation since the beginning of Christendom?

Ambrose says: "It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone." (Augsburg Confession VI:3)

Barbara Stevens said...

Dear Annonymous
The Augsburg Confession VI:3 doesn't tells us in which work of Ambrosia we can find this quote.Augsburg Confession is a Lutheren Document. It would've been helpful if you point us to the original Document ( Amborse work)to verify your clame.

God Bless

Steve Martin said...

We believe in works. Just not for righteousness sake. The Cross of Christ took care of all of that.

But what were we made for? Good works. (Ephesians, I believe).

So we do them, more or less, and with un-pure motives most of the time (maybe all of the time - I have never met a pure motive yet).

But "Christ is the end of the law for all those who have faith." For righteousness sake.

Because of Christ Jesus and His finished work on the Cross, the good we do won't save us, and the evil that we do won't condemn us.

That's why they call it the Good News!

Thanks, much.