Friday, May 6, 2011

Why William Webster's Justification Aritlcle is not Scriptural.

Reformed Apologist William Webster has an articled titled, "The Biblical Teaching of Justification," in which he seeks to prove his Calvinist views on justification are correct, while refuting and exposing Catholic claims to the contrary. Since Webster has a lot of respect in Reformed apologetics, I thought it necessary and important to confront his errors. Since his article is so long, I will only focus on the portions I believe are most relevant and most erroneous.
Webster begins his article noting the importance of deriving one's understanding of justification from Scripture, and from there, the Nature of God. This section is important, but this importance cannot be fully understood apart from seeing how the full doctrine of Justification, from the Protestant view, unfolds. I begin by quoting a a few comments of Webster's from this section (all highlighting done by me, unless otherwise noted):

Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:24-26).

This passage tells us something very significant about God and forgiveness. It tells us that God is a God of love and mercy but that he cannot and will not exercise his mercy in a way that would compromise his justice and righteousness. He must act in accord with his law because it is an expression of his holiness. So the forgiveness and justification of sinners must be compatible with God’s justice and righteousness. It must be consistent with and in fulfillment of his law. And that means that he must judge sin. So the ultimate question is this: How can unjust sinners stand before the judgment of a God who is infinitely holy and just? God, in his love, desires to forgive us and to extend mercy, but he cannot do so if it compromises his holiness and justice.
The law demands death for transgression and perfect obedience for God’s acceptance. How can he forgive and accept us when we have transgressed the law and consequently do not possess this perfect righteousness?

This is why the gospel is good news. It tells us that God has provided a salvation for us in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has provided a means of redeeming us that is consistent with his holy nature and law. He is able to exercise his love and extend to us forgiveness without compromising his holiness and justice.
The sections in bold are important, for they show the framework by which Webster is operating from. In the Protestant mind, Paul's teaching on justification is directed at answering the question: "How can God justify a sinner without compromising His Law?" In other words, how can a guilty man (who deserves punishment, not blessing) become acceptable in God's sight? From this question, the Protestant reasons, Paul proposes the "solution" to this paradoxical yet quite serious question: Christ meets all these demands in the sinner's place; Christ receives the punishment the sinner deserved while living the life of perfect obedience which the sinner should have done. In this way God is both just (deals with sin) and justifier (can accept the sinners as righteous). I have made sure to put this last paragraph in bold, for this is the framework from which the Protestant is operating under.

While some of the above notions are true, it is combined with sufficient error to radically distort the Bible's message, particularly the "good news" which is the Gospel. It is true that Christ made atonement for our sin, and that without Christ no man can be saved, but this is not done in the manner the Protestant is thinking. The 'question' and 'answer' proposed above by the Protestant reading of Paul's words is in fact an unbiblical answer to an unbiblical question; this 'question' and 'answer' actually originated in Luther's mind, not Paul's. It was Luther who struggled with this (phantom) problem, not Paul. Further, it is a wrong understanding of the "Law" which Paul speaks about, which was specifically dealing with the Mosaic Law, not some abstract, universal 'law of God'.

Webster then turns to addressing the Atonement, what it means and how it is applied:

There are four important concepts emphasized in [Galatians 3:10-13 and Romans 3:21-28] which are key to an understanding of the New Testament doctrine of the atonement of Christ: The phrase ‘For us’; Curse; Propitiation; The righteousness of God.

I have left out fully quoting those texts for the sake of brevity, though one should read these very important texts if they are not aware of what they say. Webster is approaching these texts from his incorrect framework described above, to him the atonement is about God transferring punishment the sinner legally deserved onto Christ, Who would receive that punishment instead. The fact is, his understanding of the atonement is grossly unbiblical and this will be proven as we examine what Webster says about those "four important concepts." Once we examine those "four important concepts," it will be clear that they radically change the meaning of those two major texts he quoted.

Webster now proceeds to address those four concepts:

The scriptures tell us that Christ became a curse for us. This is the truth of substitution. Jesus became a curse by bearing man’s sin and taking man’s place as his substitute to suffer the punishment due those sins by enduring the penalty of God’s broken law in man’s place. All of our sin was imputed to him and the judgment of God in all its fury came upon him:

God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age (Gal. 1:3–4).
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24).
He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquity. The chastening for our well being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Is. 53:4-6).
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).
While no Christian denies Christ died "for us," the Protestant incorrectly reads this as "in place of us" rather than the Biblical idea of "on behalf of us." There is a distinction. The Protestant reads "for us" as if God was an executioner pointing a gun at us and instead has Christ take the death penalty "for us," turning the gun from us to the head of His Beloved Son. This abominable view is (rightly) found nowhere in Scripture. The correct view of "for us" is that of mediation, Christ takes it upon himself to mend the problem "for us," this is why Christ is called "High Priest" in Scripture. A good example of the correct view is examining how "for us" is used in 1 John 3:16, which parallels Christ laying down his life "for us" and how we should, in turn, lay down our life "for others." If Webster's view is correct, we should be taking the legal punishment other Christians deserve (even though Christ already took them, and as if we could in the first place!), but such is manifestly absurd. This realization should dispel any attempts by Webster to prove his argument by simply quoting passages that say Christ died "for us" (as he does a few times elsewhere) - of course Christ died for us, but not in the sense Protestants think. As for those quotes up there, Webster is reading his own understanding of the atonement into them. I show the correct understanding of those quotes in this Essay (specifically section 3). Last, but certainly not least, if man deserves hellfire for his sins, then what Webster and Protestants are saying is that God effectively damned His Beloved Son to hellfire in our place, and this article shows that to be in fact what Protestants believe.

Webster now turns to address the concept of "propitiation," a concept which (ironically) actually refutes his thesis:

Our sin was imputed to Christ. He then became a propitiation, suffering the wrath of God against our sin by laying down his own life in death to satisfy the demands of the law. This is the primary meaning of the word propitiation—to satisfy wrath. In this case it refers specifically to the wrath of God in relation to sin. Christ bore the wrath of God as a judgment against sin. This underscores the fact that Christ’s atonement is penal in nature. It relates to the law of God. Scripture teaches that one of the purposes of Christ’s incarnation was related to the law of God: ‘But when the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons’ (Gal. 4:4–5).
I want to first note what Webster says in the first sentence, "our sin was imputed to Christ." The notion of "imputation" is critical to Protestant theology on justification, but what most don't know is that Scripture doesn't actually use the term where and how Protestants presume. The fact is, while Scripture frequently uses the term "impute" in Scripture, it never says our sin was imputed to Christ. This should cause a red flag to go up in the mind of anyone who desires to faithfully understand the Bible on the subject of justification. Next, look at how Webster defines propitiation as "suffering the wrath of God." First, the Bible nowhere says Christ suffered the wrath of God, thus Webster is inserting his own ideas. Second, the term "propitiation" by definition means "turn away wrath; appease it," it does not mean "redirect wrath onto a substitute." This alone refutes Websters whole thesis, since Scripture uses this term in describing the atonement! And even the Bible uses the term "atonement" in this way of appeasing wrath (see for example how the term appears and is used in Gen 32:30, Num 25:11-13, Prov 16:6, among others), further refuting Webster's thesis. Lastly, note the term "redeem" is used in the above Gal 4 passage Webster references. As with the term propitiation, the term "redeem" by definition means to "buy back," it does not mean to "transfer a punishment" (note how Exodus 21:28-30 contrasts redemption to death penalty). Jesus did indeed redeem, but not as Webster thinks. The fact that Paul frequently uses the term "redeem" in his justification and atonement texts (including the two big ones Webster cited, Rom 3:21-28 and Gal 3:10-13), should be sufficient proof that Webster and Protestantism has the atonement framed very incorrectly.

Webster goes onto point to the Old Testament sacrificial system, but rather than being a model for the Protestant understanding of the atonement (Penal Substitution), the OT plainly refutes the Protestant thesis. See this Essay (specifically Section 1) for a look at how Protestants misunderstand the OT sacrifices. Then he turns to how the Bible speaks of "redeem" and other similar terms, but there is no need to go over all this because as has been shown, these terms actually directly refute his thesis of transferring punishment.

This closes Websters section on "propitiation," which as we can now see is so distorted as to radically distort the teachings of Paul, misunderstand justification, and result in a false Gospel. When the foundation is bad, the whole structure is bad, and thus while Webster will go on to talk about other aspects of Justification, they will be built upon unbiblical concepts, and thus will be false.

The last and final concept Webster looks at is the notion of "the Righteousness of God":

But what is the righteousness of God? Is it a righteousness that man is responsible for producing, partially or wholly, or is it a righteousness accomplished completely apart from man’s activity, given solely as a gift? It is imperative that we understand the biblical teaching on this matter. If this truth is distorted then the biblical meaning of justification will be distorted with tragic and eternal consequences.
There are at least five different meanings for the word righteousness in the New Testament. Firstly, it describes an attribute of God. God is described as being perfectly righteous in his essential nature (Deut. 32:4 ). Secondly, it describes the character of Christ as ‘Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 Jn. 2:1), meaning that he likewise is perfect and sinless in nature and character. Thirdly, it carries an eschatological meaning. In the future kingdom of God following the second coming of the Lord Jesus, all sin will be eradicated (Rev. 21:27). There will be a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:10-13). This again describes a state of perfection. Fourthly, it describes the experience of sanctification. The believer who enters into a salvation experience with the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:1-22). Though imperfect, the prevailing characteristic of his life will be righteousness. Finally, the word righteousness is used to describe the work of Christ in atonement, designated specifically by the phrase the righteousness of God. It is this which is the basis for man’s justification, separate and distinct from the other descriptions of righteousness given in scripture. The following scriptures define the nature of this justifying righteousness: [see original article for list of passages]
The phrase "righteousness of God" is an important phrase for Protestants and their understanding of justification. This phrase played a leading role in Luther's "awakening" to his teaching of Justification by Faith Alone. Basically, Protestants understand this "righteousness" to be a legal status granted to one who obeys God's law perfectly, and since only Jesus did this, Protestants conclude justification cannot be Christ's perfect obedience mixed with our our imperfect obedience. Webster proceeds to list "at least five" different ways righteousness is used in the Bible, but what he doesn't realize is that this fact actually undermines his overall thesis. Note what he lists off first, "Firstly, it describes an attribute of God," speaking in regards to God's Divine Nature. He then goes off to list other ways righteousness is used, which will be addressed later, and concludes by saying the phrase "righteousness of God" doesn't mean any of the previous four types, but in fact a new "fifth" type speaking of Christ's work of atonement.

What Webster fails to realize is that Paul is speaking of God the Father when he uses the phrase "righteousness of God," thus the "righteousness of God the Father" cannot be anything but that of the first category, "an attribute" of God's Divine Nature. Webster has fallen into the very pit he warned about in this section: misunderstanding the phrase, leading to a distortion of the Bible's teaching on justification. This realization is very damning to the Protestant position, for if the "righteousness of God" is an attribute of God's nature, and this is needed for salvation, then it cannot be a legal status man earns by perfect obedience (as Protestants need it to be). Moreover, Webster goes onto quote many passages which mention the word "righteousness" (not all of which actually use the phrase "righteousness of God") and fallaciously equates them with "righteousness of God", presuming that's what it must be talking about (e.g. Webster quotes Romans 4:4-8 yet "righteousness of God" doesn't appear). Further, nowhere is "righteousness of God" defined as Webster goes onto define it (e.g. Webster goes onto say, "it is imputed," and "It is the Person and obedience of Christ," yet Scripture never says this).

Webster begins now to tie his thoughts together:

The righteousness that God requires as a fulfillment of his law is provided as a gift in his Son Jesus Christ who is the Lord our righteousness (1 Jn. 2:1; Jer. 23:6). ... Therefore the righteousness of God is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is his obedience which is the righteousness that justifies, not that of the believer.  ... It is also important to note that this righteousness is not limited to Christ’s work of atonement but includes his entire life of obedience. Christ fulfils the law as man’s substitute positively in that he lived a perfect life of obedience and negatively in that he paid its penalty. James Buchanan gives this explanation of the meaning of justifying righteousness and why it is called the righteousness of God...

The most important thing to point out here is that while Webster's "conclusions" might flow together logically, they are in fact built from components that have no basis in Scripture but rather traditions of men! Over and over again Webster equates "righteousness of God" with Jesus and His Obedience, but Paul never does so. This is a serious blind spot in Protestant reading of Paul. While the Bible frequently speaks of God giving us righteousness and Christ making us righteous and such, that cannot be confused with "righteousness of God," nor confused to mean "Christ's perfect obedience," for Scripture doesn't speak like this. The part above in red is especially bad in that the Bible never says Christ was obedient in place of us and that this obedience is counted as ours, yet this is a critical component in Protestant theology.

Webster then speaks on another important detail:

Some have suggested that when he uses the phrase ‘by the works of the law’, Paul is not referring to the moral law but to the Jewish ceremonial law. They suggest that while we must repudiate the Jewish ceremonial law as a basis for justification that this is not so for the moral law. However, in the book of Romans, Paul uses the term law to include both the ceremonial and the moral law of God. In Romans 7:7–13 he specifically repudiates the moral law as a basis for justification.
This is an important topic because there is often misunderstanding from all sides. When Paul uses the term "Law" and "works of the Law" he is talking about the Mosaic Law and that alone. He is not limiting it to "ceremonial" works, but rather Paul is speaking of the Mosaic Law as a Covenant, and thus all that the Law commands. The error with the Protestant reading is that Paul is not speaking of 'works in general' or even 'any and all good works' but specifically the Mosaic Law, this fact cannot be confused without distorting Paul's teaching. Paul was not speaking against 'works in general' or even 'any and all good works' but only the Mosaic Law's demands. For example, Baptism is a command of Jesus but not ever commanded in the Mosaic Law, thus it's wrong to say that if Paul forbade "works of the Law" at justification Paul was also excluding Baptism, for that's clearly a fallacious argument.

Webster continues, now speaking about the term "justify":

Justification is a forensic (legal) term which deals with acquittal from the claims of the law. It is based upon the atonement of Christ which was offered in the context of legal demands. Again, we see the direct connection between justification and the atonement in Romans 5:9 which states that we are ‘justified by His blood.’ Justification is a declaration of a righteousness based on the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. Justification does not mean to ‘make righteous’ morally, but to declare to be righteous legally. It has to do with a person’s legal status before God the holy Judge. This is the particular meaning the word justification has within the overall context of salvation. It means to be acquitted from guilt, to be set free from condemnation and to be fully accepted by God.

The term "justify" can be used as a legal term, but it's manifestly false to limit it to the legal realm. Protestants artificially limit justification to the legal realm in order to support their error. The fact is Paul never frames justification (at least not primarily) in legal terms and in fact whenever he mentions "law" he is trying to get away from it, not incorporate it! The foremost "legal" settings in Scripture where God is described as judge are in reference to the final judgment where all men are judged according to their own deeds (e.g. Rom 14:10). While Protestants very often speak of "Justification is a declaration of a righteousness based on the imputation of the righteousness of Christ," the Bible never speaks like this! It is a man made, heretical formulation, projected onto Scripture.

What Webster is doing is trying to truncate the focus to a righteousness that is 'legal' and that renders someone legally righteous before a judge. This is fallacious. Paul doesn't limit it like this, and Webster even admitted in his examination of "righteousness of God" above that the term "righteous" includes inner quality (i.e. 'sanctification') and even righteous actions. (The NT hardly uses "justify" in a legal setting at all.) Also note some examples of where "justify" is used is a lot more elastic than simply "declare righteous": (1) in Romans 4:5 Paul says "justify the ungodly," yet immediately he explains this means 'forgiving sin' (4:6-8); (2) in Romans 5:9 says "justified by his blood," but he parallels this verse to 5:19 which corresponds to 'reconciled to God by Christ's death.' These are two examples (of many) where "justify" cannot be artificially and narrowly limited to 'declare righteous'.

Webster next addresses the issue of 'sanctification' versus 'justification':

In 1 Corinthians 1:30 Paul states, ‘But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’ Here Paul uses the word righteousness as a synonym for justification and separates justification from sanctification as concepts. Justifying righteousness is a separate concept and work from that of sanctification though they both come under the general heading of salvation. Justification and sanctification are not interchangeable terms in the New Testament. They are two entirely different aspects of the overall work of salvation
Here Webster reiterates an important Protestant distinction: justification and sanctification are related yet distinct. This is only halfway true. The fact is, Paul never divides up justification and sanctification nor orders the two in the sense Protestants claim, in fact that's a serious presumption of Protestantism. For such a critical distinction, Protestants have only scant "proof" like the above to turn to - and even then they often 'forget' (as Webster does) to mention texts like 1 Corinthians 6:11 (which contradicts their ordo salutis). Webster says Paul is making this distinction in 1 Cor 1:30, though Webster forgets "righteousness" doesn't have to mean justification (Webster presumes this) but can indeed refer to "vindication" and such (e.g. Rom 5:18 and 8:10 explains righteousness is life giving). Remember, even Webster admitted in his talk on "righteousness of God" that "righteousness" can refer to sanctification, so for Webster to artificially divide up sections where "righteousness" only refers to justification or "only refers to sanctification" (e.g. Rom 6) is unwarranted and reflects an agenda.

Shifting to the subject of imputation, Webster says:

Just as man’s sin was imputed to Christ, so Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the true believer. The whole concept of imputation is essential to the doctrine of justification. This is not the invention of the Protestant Reformers but the express teaching of scripture itself. In Romans 4:5–6 Paul writes: ‘But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works.’ The Greek word translated ‘reckon’ in these two verses is logizomai. It means to ‘reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over; pass to one’s account, to impute’ (Thayer’s Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament). This word is used forty–one times in the New Testament. It means a mental evaluation, conclusion or judgment regarding a particular issue. It is an accounting term. Paul illustrates this in his letter to Philemon when referring to Philemon’s former slave Onesimus: ‘But if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account’ (verse 18). Charge that to my account! In other words, impute that to me.
This paragraph is very revealing, for in it Webster makes some of his most embarrassing arguments in his entire article. Either Webster is truly very ignorant on this subject, or he is outright lying to his readers. In charity, I assume the former. The truth is, there is a long history of Protestantism butchering the Biblical term logizomai ('reckon'), and I don't believe it is an accident that Protestants never look at how the Bible uses the term. First note how Webster begins by saying our sin was "imputed to Christ," as if it were obviously true. What he either doesn't know or is lying about is that the Bible never speaks like that: the Greek term for 'impute', while being used 41 times in Scripture is never used in reference to sin being imputed to Christ - or in reference to "Christ's Righteousness" imputed to the believer. I doubt Webster will ever admit this, and indeed he cannot without abandoning Protestantism. Secondly, Webster does something even more deceitful, though again I'd chalk it up to ignorance, when he appeals to Philemon 1:18 as an example of what the Bible means 'imputation'. This error actually goes back before Webster, and began at least 150 years ago with Reformed Theologian Charles Hodge, but what is most astonishing is how many Protestant apologists today parrot Hodge without thinking twice. What Webster doesn't know nor tell is that the term in Philemon 1:18 is not logizomai but another Greek word - a Greek word that only appears two times in Scripture, here and Romans 5:13! Thus, he is pulling a bait and switch. Remember, the Greek word logizomai ("impute," "reckon") is used over 41 times in the New Testament, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to see examples of how Scriptures uses why does Webster turn to a different word? The answer is that Scripture flatly contradicts the Protestant idea of what "reckoning" (and thus imputation) is supposed to mean.

What Webster and Protestants want logizomai to mean, which is something along the lines of "to transfer to my account," the Bible actually flatly rejects! This is why you will never find any Protestant apologist analyzing the 41 occurrences of the term logizomai be it in print or online - NEVER! In reality, the Greek term logizomai - as used in Scripture - almost always means to reckon something as it actually exists or as actually having a specific quality - and never ever means anything along the lines of 'to transfer x to y account'. Consider how the New Testament itself points away from the Protestant definition of the term. Here are some examples:
  • Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 
  • Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.
  • Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
In each of the above situations, the term logizomai is being used to reckon what is actually true about the object itself. In other words, in these examples Paul reckons that:
(i) a man is saved by faith not by works of the law, which is a fact about the nature of works of the law, since they don’t save.
(ii) a working man’s wages are reckoned not as a gift but rather (reckoned) as debt, which is likewise a fact about the nature of paid-wages. (This context is where “reckoned” [logizomai] also occurs in Rom 4:3,5!)
(iii) the Christian is to be reckoned as dead to sin since they’ve died in a very real way to sin (as Romans 6 as a whole teaches), which again is a fact about the nature of a saved person.
(iv) the present sufferings are not comparable to Heavenly glory, which goes without saying, a fact about the nature of the current situation.

Further, there are clear examples of logizomai where someone reckons incorrectly and is thus sinning or in error since they failed to reckon something as it truly was. Consider:
  • Mark 15:28 - Christ was (falsely) reckoned as a criminal by the Jews
  • Romans 2:3 - the hypocrite (falsely) reckons he will not be judged for committing the same sins he judges others for committing   
  • Romans 8:36 - persecutors (falsely) reckoning Christians as “sheep for the slaughter”
  • Romans 14:14 - a spiritually weak Christian (wrongly) reckons certain food to be “unclean”    
Thus, to reckon something other than what it really is (except by similitude), especially opposite of what it is, ranges from a mistake to a grave sin - something which God could never do. There you have it, the core concept for Protestant doctrine is not only without Biblical proof, it contradicts the Biblical proof!

The next subject Webster touches upon is a return to his original claim that justification was first and foremost a legal event, which he concludes by saying:

The judicial basis of our relationship with God is also seen in the New Testament teaching on the New Covenant. The New Covenant is a term used to describe the new relationship with God that is effected for man through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The whole concept of covenant is at the heart of God’s revelation to man. The New Testament is but a record of the fulfilment and continuation of the Abrahamic covenant of the Old Testament (Rom. 4:1–4; Gal. 3:6–29). In this Covenant God brings man into a new relationship with himself in which man experiences forgiveness of sins, an experiential knowledge of God and a new heart sanctified unto God. This covenant is mediated through the person of Jesus Christ on the basis of his once–for–all atonement for sin. The New Testament frequently speaks of the ‘blood of the covenant.’ ... These passages and others make it clear that apart from Christ’s death, given as a payment for sin in atonement to God, there would be no new covenant, no New Testament dispensation. The whole basis for our relationship with God is legal in nature because it is grounded solidly upon the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Webster recognizes that for the concept of justification as a forensic event to be undermined would in turn undermine Sola Fide, thus he goes on the offensive to counter that claim. But in doing so look at the absurd thesis he has to end up proposing, that the concept of Covenant is "legal in nature" as opposed to familial in nature. Nobody denies there is some legal component to Christ's Death, but to suggest that the Biblical idea of Covenant is principally forensic in nature is manifestly false and absurd. It is astonishing that Webster overlooks the plainly obvious fact the Abrahamic covenant was about Abraham being 'father' of many nations, which is at the heart of Paul's work against the Judaizers. Did Webster not stop and read the passages he quotes, such as Galatians 3 and Romans 4 with the repeated emphasis on becoming an adopted child of God and spiritual child of 'father' Abraham - all with almost no mention of anything "forensic"?

Webster then returns to examining the issue of 'faith versus works', making some of the same false assumptions he did originally, and concludes by saying:

Works as a basis for justification must be repudiated and an exclusive trust in and reliance upon the person of Christ and his work of atonement alone for salvation must be exercised if one is to have saving faith. This is the Reformation truth of sola fide or faith alone. It is another way of stating the truth of Romans 3:28: ‘For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.’
He believes the truth of Sola Fide is encapsulated in Romans 3:28, speaking of faith 'apart from works of the law' amounting in his mind to 'faith alone'. There is no need to repeat the fact this is a blatant category mistake discussed earlier, with the issue in Romans and Galatians being about Judaizers thinking salvation came by the works of Mosaic Law - which in no way is the same as saying 'any and all works'. Why does Paul object immediately in the next verse by asking if God was the God of the Jews only and not the Gentiles if the "works" Paul was focused on was really common to both? Paul's words make no sense to Webster's butchered reading of the texts.

Webster goes onto address James 2:24 - which too many people think is the Catholic's 'strongest' and 'only' proof against Sola Fide - but without exegeting the key verses and instead presents what is essentially the 'traditional' Protestant "response" to James 2:24, which will be shown to be nothing but absurd assumptions and attempts at damage control. All of what Webster says on James 2:24 is captured in this paragraph:

The key phrase in James 2 is ‘show me your faith’ (Js. 2:18). The only way true saving faith is demonstrated is through works. ‘Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works’ (Js. 2:18). True saving faith will always be demonstrated or accompanied by works of love and holiness. According to Romans 4:2 Abraham was justified by faith apart from works. He was declared righteous by God. But how do we know he truly had saving faith? Because his works revealed and vindicated his faith before men. His faith bore the fruit of love for God. In that sense his works justified his faith. Faith alone justifies but the faith that justifies will always give evidence of its existence, bearing fruit in holiness of life.
There many grand and yet very false assumptions here which Protestants project on this passage. First, Webster begins by saying the key phrase is in verse 2:18, "show me your faith," as if the thesis of James was about proving you have real faith by doing works before men (instead of the real thesis starting in 2:14 and concluding in 2:26). But this is not how James is using the word "show me," he is not speaking of 'public actions', rather he is speaking metaphorically in terms of 'prove to me your argument makes sense'. How can this be shown? (no pun intended) In response to James saying he will "show them" faith alone does not save, James does not get up and begin doing good works before their eyes as Webster's interpretation would demand. Instead, James says he will "show them" his argument is true by pointing to an example in Abraham's life. Thus, Webster's latching onto 'show me' is totally false. Second, Webster claims that in Romans 4:2-3 Abraham was declared righteous by faith, but what he ignores is that James quotes the EXACT same OT passage in James 2:23 as Paul does in Romans 4:2-3. Thus, James 2:23 is quoting a text that by definition is about justification before God in the sense of salvation, meaning that's the same sense James must be speaking of justification. Third, notice Webster asks a ridiculous question to support his claim, "How do we know Abraham truly had saving faith?" Is the genuineness of Abraham's faith EVER an issue? Is it not clear God was pleased with Abraham's faith as per texts like Genesis 15:6? Would James or his listeners be that stupid to think or question Genesis 15:6 was speaking of genuine faith? No. Thus James never was checking to see if Abraham really had true faith in 2:21-24, and rightly so, because such an inquiry is ridiculous, yet Webster has to ask this question because his Protestant assumptions cannot allow otherwise. Fourth, Webster says the lesson is about proving oneself "before men," not before God, and claims Abraham did this. Yet the plain fact is that James 2:21 is quoting Genesis 22:1,9-12 and has nothing to do with "before men" but exclusively "before God," when God tells Abraham to go up a mountain ALONE since this will be before God to see and be pleased with! Would James have been that stupid as to pick an example of "before men" a situation where the work was done out of the sight of men and before God alone? Lastly, Webster claims good works are guaranteed to flow if one has true faith and that this is James' point. The truth is, the Bible NEVER says good works are guaranteed to flow from the 'true believer', that's a Protestant invention. If James were really saying good works would automatically flow from faith, would it make sense for James to quote Genesis 22:1,9-12 as his star example, which was an event many years after Genesis 15:6? Are we supposed to wait many years after someone converts to check for good works? That's absurd. Webster forgets James was not speaking to unbelievers, but to Christians who had true faith but turned to sin (James 2:1,5). The Epistle of James is about Christians who had turned to sin, not people pretending to be Christians or unbelievers. Christians sin all through the Bible, yet this never means they never really believed. Does Webster think that if he himself turns to sin that he didn't really have true faith? No way, yet that irrefutably disproves the claim 'good works are guaranteed'. The Protestant reading of James 2:24 will always lead to serious problems!

Webster goes onto speak of the place of works in our salvation, particularly last judgment, but full of the same false assumptions and bad logic as he's been presenting throughout his work:

Paul states, ‘There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek’ (Rom. 2:9–10). And Jesus said, ‘Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment’ (Jn. 5:28–29). Jesus and Paul are not teaching salvation by works. Rather, they are stressing the necessity of works as the evidence of saving faith, the visible criteria by which a true relationship with Christ is judged to exist. It is the relationship, not works, which is the basis for entrance into the kingdom of God.
Is this sweeping claim that they are not teaching salvation by works but simply works proving they were already saved by faith really to be found in those passages? Not at all. This is a fine example of how the Protestant is blind to the plain reading of a text. Do these or any other text say the saved by works individual is simply proving they have 'saving faith'? Again, not at all.

Webster concludes his article by claiming, "Justification is an eternal declaration of God which happens the moment an individual is united to Christ," and that the true believer cannot ever lose their salvation:

Justification is a state of forgiveness and acceptance with God which is as perfect and eternal as Christ’s own standing. It cannot be improved upon and it cannot be lost:
Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? [36As it is written,"For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."] But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Roman 8:33–35, 37–39).
Two things to note in Webster's conclusion. First, the idea that Justification is an 'eternal declaration' that happens only once at the moment of conversion is not a Biblical concept, and in fact contradicted by the fact Abraham believed and followed God as early back as Genesis 12:1 (Heb 11:8; Gal 3:8), long before his "faith was credited as righteousness" in Genesis 15:6. This example of Abraham has always posed a serious problem for Protestants, and they've never been able to address this. On the flip side, the idea salvation cannot be lost is an invention of John Calvin, never taught in history before nor taught in Scripture. One solid proof to the contrary is Romans 4:6-8 is speaking on justification of David, who is writing Psalm 32 after he committed murder and adultery, meaning he lost his salvation and recovered it since this was not a moment of David's original conversion to God! The texts Protestants appeal to in order to claim salvation cannot be lost are meager and misinterpreted. For example, Webster is quoting Romans "8:33-39" above, thinking 'nothing can separate us from Jesus' means eternal salvation and that sin cannot harm the believer in that regard. What Webster and Protestants fail to see is that Paul is speaking of external threats that cannot harm the Christian, with no mention of sin. Sin very much can harm the Christian's relationship and cause them to lose salvation (e.g. Gal 5:19-21). Further proof Webster has butchered this passage is the fact he quotes 6 almost consecutive verses yet astonishingly leaves out the very middle verse...why is that? Look at the verse I have supplied: the verse Paul quotes as his proof text is about Christians suffering persecution from evil men, and lists various persecutions Christians will endure, nothing to do with personal sin! This just goes to show how lousy Protestant exegesis can get when the agenda is persecuting the One True Catholic Church!

When the faithful student of Scripture really starts to delve into this subject, they will quickly be astonished at just how out of place Protestant claims and interpretations are from the true meaning of Scripture. It is amazing Webster is a major opponent of Catholics and their supposed distortion of Scripture, yet just look at all the presumptions and errors all over the place in Webster's article. It reminds me of Romans 10 where Paul laments the Jews who while being zealous for God are not doing so according to the correct knowledge, and thus are actually fighting against God!

1 comment:

Nick said...

NOTE: For some reason the formatting for blogger is terrible. I did all I could to eliminate the extra spaces and add spaces between the quotes, but nothing seemed to work. I'm not happy about it, but I won't get worked up over this issue either.