13 June, 2011

Discussion of Authority, Justification and Purgatory with "Jim"

(Jim) “[Catholics hold church tradition as an equal authority to scripture. That is not a lie. And as a result, many of our differences come out of this.

I looked up the Catholic catechism online and this is what I found in regards to the issues I addressed in my post:

"As a result the church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from holy Scripture alone. BOTH SCRIPTURE & TRADITION MUST BE ACCEPTED & HONORED WITH EQUAL SENTIMENTS OF DEVOTION AND REVERENCE."

That's what I said.]”

(Cristoiglesia) Of course, this is not at all what you said. You said instead, “Catholics hold church tradition as an equal authority to scripture. That is not a lie. And as a result, many of our differences come out of this.”

The Church is saying that it is not equal authority but the same authority undivided. Both come from the same source and as a result they must be treated with equal devotion and reverence as Sacred Tradition. Both are the teaching of God which is the deposit of truth and revelation to the Church. We have recorded this in the Bible so that there can be no mistake about Christ’s teaching. St. Paul recorded that we are to hold fast to all Sacred Traditions whether transmitted orally or in writing. The Bible also records that not all things taught by Jesus are written down in the Scriptures but some are a part of the deposit of the oral tradition that led the Church for 400 years without the benefit of the written tradition. Certainly the Church being the very Church that Jesus founded would hold all of His teaching that was delivered to them as having authority. What I took issue with is that you suggested erroneously that the Church separates these two forms of God’s Word which would be in violation of what is written by St. Paul. It is as if you are accusing the Church of heresy similar to the unbiblical Protestant heresy of Sola Scriptura which seeks to divide God’s Word and marginalize the oral Sacred Tradition of not having authority over the faithful. From the teaching of the Scriptures it is clear that God’s revelations to man are from both the written and the oral means and both are His divine Word not to be divided or marginalized. Naturally when one accepts only a part of the Sacred Tradition that God delivered to His Church whether the oral or the written, such an approach invites error and in doing so the tens of thousands of Protestant sects are sure to be the genesis of error in their approach to divide and marginalize one part of God’s Word over another. Is this not what St. Paul warned against? Of course it is. If the Church did not take this approach then from a biblical mandate of accepting all of God’s Word as equal in devotion and reverence then any of its teaching would be and should be treated with skepticism as it would not be following the entirety of God’s Word as defined by St. Paul which we are to hold as equal in devotion and reverence. If the Church divided God’s Word then the Church could not be called the “Pillar and foundation of the truth” which the Bible authoritatively says it personifies. Division and confusion are the tools of Satan whether it is used to divide God’s Word or the Corpus Christi.

(Jim) “[2. Catholics believe that we are saved by faith and works. They've told me this. So that is not a lie. And that is contrary to scripture. Faith produces works through the power of the Spirit. But works do not produce salvation.

CCC 2027: No one can merit initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and others all the graces needed to attain eternal life."

This sounds to me like God's grace gives us the ability to merit eternal life by our works. Am I mistaken?]”

(Cristoiglesia) Yes, of course you are mistaken. All salvation is by God’s grace and not by men’s works. There are no works pleasing to God unless man is moved by God’s grace and even then this is a sign of one’s cooperation with grace. As St. James says in His epistle, “Faith without works is dead faith”. Initial salvation comes through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit bringing us to faith and sanctification. This grace given by God is unmerited and certainly not earned. Catholic teaching is that all works are not the result of our own efforts but are produced by His grace. At judgment God will see our works produced by His grace as meritorious. Through God and His grace working in our lives we earn our salvation. Catholic teaching in regards to merit is very similar if not identical to the Protestant monergistic view, meaning that all is of God, approach rather than a synergistic approach, some of God and some of us, as Catholics get accused. The actual view of Catholics is that God does all the work and we do all the work. Catholics give all the credit to God but also understand that their response to grace is deserving of merit.

The way I see it is that we respond to God’s promises He is obligated to fulfill a debt He has incurred through His promise. We through His grace put faith and trust in those promises. Since God promises us eternal life by our faith then He has created an obligation for Himself. It is God’s promise that makes it a merit and not our work because God represents to us justice and truth and by us responding to His commands through the Spirit He has created a debt deserved by crediting us with merit even though it is through Christ and the Holy Spirit that we responded to His commands and will. Protestants error is in believing that God does not desire our obedience to the Spirit when we respond with good works. They confuse these divinely inspired works with the works of the law that do not gain us merit just as the Scriptures teach.

(Jim) Catholics believe in the doctrine of purgatory. That is no lie. They believe that it is the purging of sin from our soul. The bible teaches that we have been crucified with Christ and that our old soul life has died and we have raised up with Christ unto newness of life. And the spiritual life that now lives in us is the Spirit of Christ. Spiritually, we are perfect and fit for heaven. A cursory reading of the latter half of Romans 7 reveals to us that our struggle with sin in this life is centered in our body and the members of our body. So when we lay aside our body at death, there is nothing left to be purified. We have at that point been set free from the presence of sin and are ready to enter into heaven.

Purgatory: "CCC- On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified here on earth or after death in the state called purgatory."

(Cristoiglesia) Of course, we believe in Purgatory and yes it is a process of purgation (cleansing) that removes any signs of sin. Even venial sins leave a residual stain on the soul that must be removed before one can enter into the beatific vision. This is made possible by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross which was and is for man’s atonement.

This explains the Doctrine of Purgatory in more detail:


You said, “The bible teaches that we have been crucified with Christ and that our old soul life has died and we have raised up with Christ unto newness of life. And the spiritual life that now lives in us is the Spirit of Christ. Spiritually, we are perfect and fit for heaven.”

That is correct but the Bible also tells us that sin separates us from that familial relationship that you paraphrased from Scripture. We continue to sin our entire lives. We are reconciled back into that relationship which sin has compromised by contrition and repentance. This is called by the Church the Sacrament of Reconciliation which our Lord ordained by giving that power and authority to His Church when acting in persona Christi.

I think you have illustrated why we should not approach the Bible in a “cursory” way. The Bible should never be understood in a haphazard or superficial way as you suggest or error will certainly result as you have stood witness. You are in error when you say that the Bible teaches that we can secure our salvation by simply confessing assent to belief in Christ. This act or work of the law does not secure salvation even when prompted by God’s grace as is always the case. We must also endure in this salvific grace to be saved. We must abide in Him and Him in us to be saved. The Bible states that Jesus said that to do this we must eat the great feast that He provides which are His truly real and substantial Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. We must approach this salvific promise with fear and trembling according to St. Paul and must not presume a debt owed to us but instead a gift of grace given to merit our salvation. We must not fall away through sin or in any way abandon this free gift of salvific grace. A sinful soul will not enter into the beatific vision even in a cloak of Christ’s blood as you suggest but must indeed be purified and made perfect by Christ’s sacrifice. We are made pure and holy by the cleansing of His blood instead whether in this life by confession and reconciliation or through purgation in the life to come. This is the teaching of His Word through His Church. God Bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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