Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The meaning of the "elect" in the OT & 1st Clement

Jimmy Akin has a fascinating series on the 'original' meaning of the theological term known as the "elect". Over the centuries since the time of the Apostles, the term has come to mean something along the lines of "those predestined for Heaven," those who cannot lose their salvation, those chosen unconditionally, etc. But since this isn't the 'original' Biblical meaning, I think this is an unfortunate case of misusing key Biblical terminology and thus should be corrected. Catholicism has no problem with theology developing in a manner in which no Dogma or Divine Revelation is undermined, but really we should try to stick with the original understandings of key Biblical terms. I think this is especially crucial when it comes to reading the Bible, so we know what is being said rather than projecting our own assumptions immediately onto the text. And with that, I will dive right into Jimmy's three 11/17 articles (and will update this post when he makes a fourth), summarizing what he said, and I encourage you to read them yourself. 

Jimmy begins with looking into the Epistle of 1 Clement, which is a good place to start, because it shows what the earliest Christians thought about certain key terms. This Epistle is traditionally attributed to St Clement, one of the earliest Popes, and personal friend of Peter and Paul (Philippians 4:3), and there is no good reason to doubt this. The Epistle is staid to have been written around AD96, but Jimmy says it could be even as early as AD70. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Does "no condemnation for those in Christ" refer to eternal security? (Rom 8:1 & 5:1)

I often see Protestants cite texts like Romans 8:1 and Rom 5:1 as proof-texts for their doctrine of Eternal Security (i.e. the belief that salvation cannot be lost). Upon first glance, it can seem that these texts could suggest this, but as will be shown this is reading too much into the text, as well as going against the very lesson Paul is trying to convey.

The texts in question say: 
  • Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh. {these italicized words are not found in some manuscripts} 
  • Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we {let us} have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many Protestants read these verses and think that the "no condemnation" and the "peace" we have refer to our standing we will have standing before the judgment seat of Christ at the end of our life. They hold that we are fully and eternally entitled to enter heaven the moment we become justified by faith. 

While a Catholic would happily affirm that a person who is currently in a State of Grace is certainly to be at peace and is certainly in a position of no condemnation, the first thing to notice is that nothing here indicates this "no condemnation" and "peace" are permanent features in a Christian's life. In fact, based on the contexts and other passages, we should start off assuming these texts refer only to your present status, which can change later on if you turn to a life of sin.