Baptists on Justification by Faith and Trent: Kyrie Eleison

Here is an interesting post by a Southern Baptist asking questions about justification by faith alone and all those things. Then, if you read through the comments, you find that he mentions a whole bunch of items from the Council of Trent (500 or so years ago). The implication, which he doesn't just lay on the table unfortunately, is that there is something profoundly un-Christian about Roman Catholic Christianity.

Ok, I'm not a Roman Catholic, and I don't have any plans to become Roman Catholic, but I don't view their understanding of the Gospel as profoundly flawed or extremely un-biblical. Are there points that I would disagree with? Sure. Anyway, take a look for yourself. Also, check out my response on the comments, and feel free to lay out your own thoughts on his original post and further catalogue of Trentian references.

SBC Impact!


FrGregACCA said…
Spoken like a true Anglican!

(Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Anonymous said…
We wouldnt need the greatest of commandments(i.e. Love thy Neighbor) if our justification was a matter of private faith. Good works perfects faith in its public witness, actions and attitude. If man could achieve the proper level of perfection through private faith alone, then why does James say that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone? Why does Jesus repeatedly call on us to act out good works if only faith is needed? In fact, the only place in the Bible where the phrase “faith alone” appears is in James 2:24 where it says we ARE justified by works and NOT by faith alone.

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
James 2:24

Catholics do not deny that through perfect faith one can attain salvation, but that level of perfection is unattainable without a complete surrender of not just your conscience, but your outward disposition through living your life in accordance to God's will. The dialogue with protestants always seems to degrade into cause and effect instead of mutual enrichment.
FrGregACCA said…
Irenaeus, some Protestants are worse than others in this regard.
Don said…
In reading Rogers' selections from Trent, I'm not sure that Catholics were the only ones he was going after. To understand this requires a little appreciation of Southern Baptist doctrine (I hate to dignify it by the name of theology.)

The biggest item is unconditional eternal security. Canon 23 touches on this. Baptists have taught for a long time that one can obtain salvation through an act of faith and that once this done they can do nothing to lose their salvation or eternal life. In an Anglican context this is what I call the "Article XVI problem" but in their motherland the Southern Baptists' biggest opponents are those in the Wesleyan tradition (Methodists/Holiness Churches/Pentecostals) who have battled the Baptists about this since the SBC was founded and before.

Looking in the other direction, the whole Reformed idea of "justification by faith" revolves around their idea that the elect got to that justification by virtue of their election. That's how they cleanly divorce faith from works, but they end up with a religion that is, in reality, as fatalistic as Islam. Canon 9 is, in some ways, a "straw man" type of anathema in the context of what the RCC was up against at the time.

However, the Baptists come back with an Arminian view of election. What this means is that "justification by faith" is not univocal between the Baptists and the Reformers, if their idea of perseverance is. Attacking the Catholics is convenient way of diverting attention from this problem.

Looking at the other side, the problem with the whole Roman Catholic view of works and justification is that it implies that works from created man can be acceptable to an uncreated God. The only thing that can be acceptable to God is God himself, dwelling in us. That dwelling is contingent upon our turning to him and following him faithfully, something that we can expect assistance with.

The emphasis on the indwelling of God is a strong point in Roman Catholic theology, one that RC's don't fully appreciate. But the mechanistic/legalistic view of justification and what follows that Baptist and Reformed alike give that indwelling the short shrift.
There are Baptists who certainly have that and live it but it's a pity that their system has (traditionally at least) not encouraged it more.
Abu Daoud said…

Your observations are penetrating and thought-provoking. Thanks. (And I just gave a lecture on the rise of episcopal monarchialism in Arabic, so that is a genuine complement!)

Anonymous said…
Don said -
"The only thing that can be acceptable to God is God himself, dwelling in us."

Which is why you need the sacraments. More importantly, why you need the Eucharist. For it is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine.

"Looking at the other side, the problem with the whole Roman Catholic view of works and justification is that it implies that works from created man can be acceptable to an uncreated God."

I dont see how this criticism can be true. Are you saying there are no scripture where God is pleased with us for a work?

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then will he render to every man according to his works.”
Matt 16:27

"Go then, and eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with gladness: because thy works please God."
Ecc 9:7

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.
1 Ti 2:3

Don't overlook the parables either(i.e. talents)
Don said…
Irenaeus, relying on the works by themselves has two serious problems.

The first is that it assumes that the works have intrinsic value. But why should this be so? Why should God be necessitated to accept these created works? Whatever value our works have is extrinsic, i.e., what comes from God, or what value that he assigns to them. If he dwells in us and we do the works that come from that indwelling, then he is in the works and they are acceptable to him because they are formally his.

To teach otherwise can lead one to assume that any system of works (Freemasonry and Islam come to mind, although there are others) could potentially have salvific value.

The second problem is that our works are totally valueless unless we are God-directed to start with.

One example of this found in a Catholic context is the Sacrament of Penance. The confessor gives a (hopefully) appropriate penance, but unless the penitent is truly contrite (and not just doing it out of attrition, as our Jansenist friends would note) it is of no effect. And that contrition must in turn come from an individual who is God-directed and truly sorry for their sins.

Note carefully that I said that the RC system "implies that works from created man can be acceptable to an uncreated God." I believe that the distinction between created and uncreated goodness (and the salvific value that either doesn't come or comes therefrom) is consonant with basic Catholic theology. But again, as with many other things, in transmitting that to the faithful things frequently get lost in the translation.

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