03 July, 2011

Assurance of Salvation discussed with "Doug"

[The following is the first exchange that took place between one calling himself Doug and I about sanctification and justification contrasting the teaching of John Calvin and the teaching of the Church in the Bible and exposed fully in the Catechism.]

(Doug) “I appreciate the kind email, but you are sadly mistaken my friend. Paul clearly contrasts faith with works in passages like these: "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:5); "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9).”

(Cristoiglesia) Without eisegesis it is impossible to come to the same conclusion as you. In Romans 4:5 the Scriptures are speaking of Abraham who was an idolater before coming to faith in God. The Scriptures are simply saying that as an idolater he did not merit God’s appointment by his works. After God called him Abraham believed God’s promises and justice prevailed as both were gifts of God. Certainly Abraham is not an example of dead faith but instead it is an example of active faith full of charity as His life exemplifies.

In Ephesians 2:8-9 we see the biblical testimony that faith is the genesis as well as foundation of justification as the first of virtues in a virtuous life. The absence of faith separates one from God and any possibility of a familial relationship as such is not pleasing to God. It is by God’s grace that we receive this salvific grace. In receiving this grace we grow as a result with grace being the whole cause and justification being the effect.

There is no contrast indicated in these passages but instead they are speaking of faith and works being integral in a familial and pleasing relationship with God coming from God’s grace and through the Holy Spirit prompting us through grace to serve God. Romans uses Abraham as an example of this grace and Ephesians simply confirms the abundance of God’s grace for faith and for works.

(Doug)”The Bible says we can KNOW that we are saved right now (1 John 5:13). You can't know for sure that you're saved if your works are involved since you're nothing but a dirty rotten sinner to the core (as am I).”

(Cristoiglesia) I do not see how anyone reading this verse in context could ever come to a conclusion as you, Calvin and Jansenius before him.

The preceding verses and especially verse 3 contradict such a conclusion. The burden of following God’s commandments should not be approached as impossible to overcome which causes one to arrive at despair and hopelessness. We have many examples of the martyrs of the faith who have suffered into death rather than sin against God. They are a clear example against total depravity as you suggest. The abundance of grace given by God and our response to that grace allow us and indeed encourage us to overcome that which you, Calvin and Jansenius proclaim are impossible. We can turn from temptation and deny self. We can suffer death for Him rather than sin. It is God’s grace that we receive which makes the yoke of our belief in Christ a light burden for the faithful to bear. (Mat 11:30) We certainly can by His grace reject sin. God does not command that which is not possible to follow as Calvin and Jansenius proclaim in their heretical teaching.

(Doug) “Consider the warning of Jesus in Matthew 7: 21-23.

So, who among those who say "Lord, Lord" will enter? Answer: those who do the will of the Father.”

(Cristoiglesia) In these verses God is illustrating that it is not enough to believe in Him and to hear His words but that the evidence of salvific grace in our lives is the joining of works to our faith as on the last day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess it is our works in obedience to our faith that will be judged. If one had not faith how could they cry out Lord, Lord. Even one with the strongest of faith without works will not see the beatific vision. (1Cor13) We are being instructed by His Word that those who profess even constantly their faith but care little for receiving Him and responding to His grace by receiving that grace into their own spirit will find that their presumption of their deceitful consciences towards themselves will result in great disappointment and eternal damnation.

Not only do the righteous receive the gifts of prophecy and of miracles but it also comes by the wicked as the biblical example of Caiphas and Balaam. The Scriptures are illustrating that even with the evidence in our lives of prophecy and miracles will not save us if not accompanied and assisted by good works. God sometimes works through men who do not have lives that are congruent with faith in God but yet they become tools of God to encourage others in their faith despite their personal lack of faith. We have the example of Balaam who had no faith yet was used by God to give advantage to others. Judas even cast out devils despite his personal wickedness. As St. Chrysostom said in quoting St. Paul, “if I had all faith so as to remove mountains, and if I knew all mysteries, and was possessed of all wisdom, but had not charity, I am nothing."

(Doug) “What, then, does Jesus mean by the will of the Father and who are those who do it?

A person who trusts in Christ alone obeys completely the will of the Father to believe in Jesus Christ alone for eternal salvation. Such a person obtains absolute perfection before God [positionally speaking] since Christ takes away all of his sins and gives him His righteousness in exchange (2 Cor. 5:21; Col. 2:13-14; Heb. 10:1-18).””

(Cristoiglesia) Perhaps you would like to point out the verse in Scriptures that says
“Christ alone”. Please define “positionally speaking” so that I can respond.

(2Co 5:21 DRB) Him, who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us: that we might be made the justice of God in him. Sin for us... That is, to be a sin offering, a victim for sin.

This verse says that Jesus had never sinned nor is He capable of sinning. When the Scriptures say “he hath made sin for us” is usually understood to refer to His atoning sacrifice on the Cross. This is supported by the Church fathers including St. Augustine with its foundation in Scriptures. The verse further explains that as a result of His sacrifice we might be justified and sanctified by His grace and His resulting justice from Him. He is a sin offering and victim for sin. Perhaps you could share how this verse supports your theological understanding

(Col 2:13 DRB) And you, when you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he hath quickened together with him, forgiving you all offences:

(Col 2:14 DRB) Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross.

Verse 12 puts verses 13-14 into context as this is speaking of the benefits of Baptism. “Blotting out refers to the sentence of eternal death brought on by the sinful Adam and for all of his posterity being removed by Baptism through His sacrifice. (Heb 10:1 DRB) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, by the selfsame sacrifices which they offer continually every year, can never make the comers thereunto perfect.

It is saying that it is this “original sin” that is taken away or blotted out by Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The reference to the cross represents the sin of Adam upon the Cross and the atonement of His death for that sin that condemned men to death. Again I fail to see how these verses that you use to support your statements contribute to the statements any credibility or veracity.

(Heb 10:2 DRB) For then they would have ceased to be offered: because the worshippers once cleansed should have no conscience of sin any longer.

(Heb 10:3 DRB) But in them there is made a commemoration of sins every year:

(Heb 10:4 DRB) For it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats sin should be taken away.

(Heb 10:5 DRB) Wherefore, when he cometh into the world he saith: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to me.

(Heb 10:6 DRB) Holocausts for sin did not please thee.

(Heb 10:7 DRB) Then said I: Behold I come: in the head of the book it is written of me: that I should do thy will, O God.

(Heb 10:8 DRB) In saying before, Sacrifices, and oblations, and holocausts for sin thou wouldest not, neither are they pleasing to thee, which are offered according to the law.

(Heb 10:9 DRB) Then said I: Behold, I come to do thy will, O God: He taketh away the first, that he may establish that which followeth.

(Heb 10:10 DRB) In the which will, we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once.

(Heb 10:11 DRB) And every priest indeed standeth daily ministering and often offering the same sacrifices which can never take away sins.

(Heb 10:12 DRB) But this man, offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God,

(Heb 10:13 DRB) From henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstool.

(Heb 10:14 DRB) For by one oblation he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

(Heb 10:15 DRB) And the Holy Ghost also doth testify this to us. For after that he said:

(Heb 10:16 DRB) And this is the testament which I will make unto them after those days, saith the Lord. I will give my laws in their hearts and on their minds will I write them:

(Heb 10:17 DRB) And their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.

(Heb 10:18 DRB) Now, where there is a remission of these, there is no more an oblation for sin.

This passage simply says that Jesus is like us in representing us on the cross except for sin. He experienced temptation, suffered unto death as fully man so that He could experience the desire for mercy, feel compassion for the sinful in all of our temptations and sufferings so that He might become the High priest which was His destiny and our blessing through His grace. How do these verses relate to your theological conclusions.

(Doug) “James 2 is talking about a dead faith that was at one time alive. Believers who don't live godly lives will experience profound regret at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). “

(Cristoiglesia) I do agree that those who do not live godly lives will suffer regret at judgment but I do not see the support for a theological position that it is speaking of fallen away Christians who have lost their faith. It instead is speaking of God’s grace working through the faithful in producing good works as evidence of their faith. Thus as James stated faith without works is a dead faith because it is evidence that the person is not being obedient and responding to the Holy Spirit which surely provokes the faithful to works such as charity, mercy and denial of self.

I know how seductive it is to choose eisegesis over exegesis when approaching Scripture. I was a Protestant for 50 years and fell for some of the same man-made doctrines as you because I was unable to accept sound doctrines and used eisegesis to satisfy my itching ears also. I find it very sad when people are still lost in the false teaching of men and reject the sound doctrine that Jesus promised in His Church. It all comes down to either trusting in Christ’s promises or the doctrines of men like Calvin, in this case, it is the latter who is a heretical false teacher.

I can see how someone taking Scriptures out of the whole context of the Bible could come to believe in false doctrines. But, using improper biblical hermeneutics such practices can only lead to error as you have illustrated. The facts are that the Bible teaches that salvation is a lifelong process culminating in judgment. Our sins are not covered by Jesus but by His blood we are made pure and Holy and indeed sanctified so that we may receive the beatific vision. No sinful soul even covered in a cloak of deception can entire heaven but only the sanctified soul purified and cleansed by the redemptive blood of Christ. The fruit of our godly grace are the obedient works we do when prompted by the Holy Spirit and are evidence of the redemptive grace in our lives. Thus the Bible says that faith without works is dead faith and evidence that we are not one in the family of God as we might suppose. God calls us in His greatest commandment to love one another and this is evidenced in our godly works like sacrifice and prayer for one another.

(Doug) “With all due respect, you are the one who is rejecting the clear teachings of scripture. I find it very sad when a can’t see salvation for what it is – a completely free gift received through faith and apart from any works that we do. You obviously couldn’t refute the passages that I quoted earlier. You would probably have to go to the Catholic Catechism for that.”

(Cristoiglesia) Well as you can see from my previous commentary I have refuted your eisegesis soundly with Scripture and reason. I cannot find a single biblical verse that says that salvation is “a completely free gift received through faith and apart from any works” instead you add the word “any” which makes your claim false. The Bible only condemns one kind of works and that is the works of the law which is referring to the written Mosaic law alone. It is saying that a knowledge of the law is a knowledge of sin and recognizing what is sinful but the Bible does not condemn godly works prompted by the Holy Spirit working in one’s life but instead condemns those who do not acknowledge and conform to the precepts of the law making them even more guilty.

(Rom 3:28 DRB) For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law.

Since Christ has come God’s justice which has made others just must come by faith in Christ. It is by Christ’s grace which all whether Jew or Gentile, because of His sacrifice as the propitiation for the sins of all men are saved. We must have faith in His blood shed on Calvary for us And knowledge that He died for us. He is the sole justifier for man. As Gentiles we are justified without the Mosaic law but the Jews who have been under the law of Moses cannot receive sanctification, justification or receive salvation except by the faith and grace of Christ. St. Paul is teaching in chapter 3 verses 20 and 28 of his letter to the Romans that man is justified without the works of the Mosaic law. He further teaches that there are no works of the Mosaic law or works by the law of nature will justify man. He further emphasizes that believing in faith alone for salvation would be contrary to the Gospel. Works must be joined to faith and God’s grace.

In chapter 4 verses 3 and 5 when speaking of Abraham as an example that we are justified by faith or believing but nowhere does he say we are saved by faith alone. Only the heretics proclaim salvation by the sufficiency of faith alone.

(Rom 2:6 DRB) Who will render to every man according to his works.

(Rom 2:13 DRB) For not the hearers of the law are just before God: but the doers of the law shall be justified.

(Gal 5:6 DRB) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by Charity.

(1Co 7:19 DRB) Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing: but the observance of the commandments of God.

St. James acknowledges the consistent teaching of Scriptures when he reiterates that faith without works is dead faith.

(Doug) “I don’t know why you’re so obsessed with Calvin. He actually held to a lot of doctrines that I also reject such as perseverance of the saints. I am a Dispensationalist just to be clear. However, systems of theology don’t determine who enters heaven or not. A person must be born again through faith in Christ (apart from works…as the verses I pointed out yesterday clearly show) in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

(Cristoiglesia) I am not obsessed with John Calvin but only recognize that he has been used as a tool for evil in his teaching of heresies like faith alone. I have little regard for the ravening wolves and false teachers like Calvin. We can discuss Dispensationalism separately as it does not apply to this discussion and would just be a separate tangent to the discussion. I would agree that “systems of theology” do not determine who is saved as all salvation is by God’s grace and I would agree that one must be “born again” through Baptism to be saved as the Bible teaches that this is the path to salvation. But you seem to suggest another teaching on being “born again” that is not at all biblical. Being “born again” is only mentioned in the context of baptism.

Joh 3:5 Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

1Pe 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, by the word of God who liveth and remaineth for ever.

As you can see by these verses we must follow the Word of God which states that we are born again by Baptism and not only by faith.

(Doug) “In Matthew 7:21-23, the people shouting “Lord, Lord…” were not Buddhists or Hindus. These represent individuals who claimed to do righteous works in the name of Christ. Because they felt their meritorious works earned them kingdom entrance, they were flatly denied. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).”

(Cristoiglesia) Surely St. Matthew is writing of those who do not do the will of God yet claim to be Godly. It is not the will of God to simply proclaim faith without living that faith by their works. One can bear good or bad fruit but only he who bears good fruit. When one bears good fruit as a result of the indwelling and obedience to the Holy Spirit which is God’s will. Those that reject the Holy Spirit and have no evidence of the continuance of good works like charity and mercy are instead evidencing that they are not in Christ but instead are of the world.

In verse 21 St. Matthew is teaching that believing in Him is not sufficient nor is hearing His words. Instead it is teaching that we must incorporate works with faith as this is how we will be judged on the last day. Even the strongest of faith without the works of justice will gaze on the beatific vision. Having the Lord continually in one’s mouth is not enough but it is necessary for one to be penetrated by His Spirit in full acceptance in their own spirit or to find their presumption of their faith without works being sufficient to be woefully disappointed. Surely St. Mathew is not speaking of those without faith or they would not cry out “Lord, Lord”.

(Doug) “I can know right here and now that I possess it based on the simple promises of Jesus. His Words take priority over what the Catholic Church teaches or what some priest thinks is the correct way to salvation”

(Cristoiglesia) I understand that you have been deceived by Calvinist teaching into thinking that you have already been saved but that will not occur until your death and judgment according to biblical teaching. Only our sovereign God declares one saved and that is done at judgment. We cannot proclaim ourselves or others saved without prideful presumption. You are looking for cheap grace but that grace was earned for us by our Lord at Calvary and carried a heavy price of suffering to atone for our sins and open the door to heaven for us through our repentance.

The truth is that the Church teaches and proclaims the true Gospel which says that we are only saved by His sovereign grace. The Church proclaims the Word of God and not others claiming to have the authority to do so from Christ that was given only to His Church. The Bible states that it is not for private interpretation but must be interpreted through the Church lest we fall for error and heresy. If one truly believes in God and His Word then they will follow only HIS Church and not man-made counterfeits or false doctrines of heretics. Only His Church is called the “pillar and foundation of the truth” which can only be the Catholic Church. Jesus prayed on the “Mount of Olives” in the “Garden of Gethsemane” that we all be one in His Church as He and the Father are one. So, According to Jesus and the Bible the Church is the teaching of the correct way to salvation and not the teaching of Calvin or other heretics.

(Doug) “My willingness to serve Christ stems from the gratitude I have for His free gift of salvation as well as a desire to receive a special inheritance and reward for faithful service at the Judgment Seat (2 Cor. 5:10). Hell is not an option since I have already passed from death into life (see John 5:24)!”

(Cristoiglesia) St. Paul disagreed with your conclusions:

Php 2:12 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.

(Doug) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This is so simple that a young child can grasp it! This is why we can KNOW right here and now that we are saved (1 John 5:13). Praise God that I know I’m on my way to heaven :-)”

(Cristoiglesia) John 3:16 in the original language teaches us that we must continue to believe for everlasting life just as St. Paul warned in Php 2:12. Taking verses out of context with the whole of Scriptures almost always results in error as you have proven here but eisegesis instead of exegesis compounds the error. 1 John 5:13 does not support your conclusion but stands in opposition to it. The presumption of salvation for oneself or others is a grave sin against God.

(Doug) “Perhaps you have been born again at some moment in the past (since it seems you did at one time embrace the truth). Given the fact that God promises us life that is eternal, your salvation can't be touched if that is the case. However, you will experience loss of reward at the Judgment Seat as you see all of your works burn up (1 Cor. 3:15). You will be denied the privileges of reigning and ruling with the King of kings (2 Tim. 2:12).”

(Cristoiglesia) Yes, I have been baptized and born again in the biblical sense with Baptism which has made a permanent mark on my soul. It was done in a valid Protestant ceremony when I was eight days old. I have come into the fullness of truth through the Catholic Church as the Bible teaches. But I approach my salvation with fear and trembling that I may fall away just as does St. Paul in His teaching. St. John said in John 3:16, I must continue in faith in Christ to be saved.

(Doug)“My prayer is that God will open up your heart to see that His death on the Cross FULLY paid for all your sins. Your soteriological writings are so foreign to scripture that it would be almost laughable if it weren't such a serious issue being discussed. Read John's Gospel since the purpose statement is clearly stated in John 20:31.”

(Cristoiglesia) I am fully aware of what Jesus did for us on the cross and it was not to award us with cheap grace but a grace paid for with His blood and suffering. It is clearly you that has little regard for Scripture with your proof text methodology and eisegesis. You create with your misunderstanding of Scriptures more contradictions than any consistency of truth. When you create contradictions it is a clear indication of error for both error and truth cannot coexist in God’s Word or in His Church which is truly the “pillar and foundation of the truth” as the Bible states.

My writings are consistent with the Word of God and would only be laughable to one that is captured in the snare of false teachers that twist the Word of God to their own profit as did Calvin whom you follow. He was a Secular Humanist lawyer that wanted to establish a theocracy that had God as a servant of the people instead of the consistent teaching of the Church and of the Bible of man being created to serve God. You think as a result that God owes you a debt because of your belief in Him regardless of whether you accept His will prompted by the Holy Spirit to do His works of charity and mercy and become the good fruit that He promises will have the beatific vision and not the bad fruit of those who cry, Lord, Lord as the heretics have taught you. The issues of salvation are serious and as it is proven by this discussion many are seduced by the doctrines of men and devils because such teaching satisfies their itching ears. But false teaching or cheap grace do not lead to salvation and that is the truth I must share with you.

(Joh 20:31 DRB) But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.

May you learn to do His will, reject false teaching and live out the true evidence of salvific faith through your works. May our Lord have mercy on you and by His grace may you come to faith in His Church and reject the doctrines of men and devils. God bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

No comments:

Post a Comment