Tuesday, June 08, 2004

John Wesley: a "Catholic Methodist"?

By Dave Armstrong (6-8-04)

Since discovering very "Catholic" things about various Protestants seems to be quite the thing these days, I was fascinated by this information I picked up today from Alastair Roberts. I love Wesley! But now I think he is even cooler than I did before: 

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I came across this interesting letter a few months back. It is addressed to Wesley’s wayward brother-in-law, Westley Hall.

December 30, 1745.

DEAR BROTHER,—Now you act the part of a friend. It has long been our desire, that, you would speak freely. And we will do the same. What we know not yet, may God reveal to us!

You think, First, that, we undertake to defend some things, which are not defensible by the Word of God. You instance three: on each of which we will explain ourselves as clearly as we can.

1. ‘That, the validity of our ministry depends on a succession supposed to be from the Apostles, and a commission derived from the Pope of Rome, and his successors or dependents.’

We believe, it would not be right for us to administer, either Baptism or the Lord’s Supper, unless we had a commission so to do from those Bishops, whom we apprehend to be in a succession from the Apostles. And, yet, we allow, these Bishops are the successors of those, who are dependent on the Bishop of Rome. But, we would be glad to know, on what reasons you believe this to be inconsistent with the Word of God.

2. ‘That, there is an outward Priesthood, and consequently an outward Sacrifice, ordained and offered by the Bishop of Rome, and his successors or dependents, in the Church of England, as vicars and vicegerents of Christ.’

We believe there is and always was, in every Christian Church (whether dependent on the Bishop of Rome or not) an outward Priesthood ordained by Jesus Christ, and an outward Sacrifice offered therein, by men authorized to act, as Ambassadors of Christ, and Stewards of the mysteries of God. On what grounds do you believe, that, Christ has abolished that Priesthood or Sacrifice?

3. ‘That, this Papal Hierarchy and Prelacy, which still continues in the Church of England, is of Apostolical Institution, and authorized thereby; though not by the written Word.’

We believe, that, the threefold order of ministers, (which you seem to mean by Papal Hierarchy and Prelacy,) is not only authorized by its Apostolical Institution, but also by the written Word. Yet, we are willing to hear and weigh whatever reasons induce you to believe to the contrary.


But don't break out the champagne yet. Alas, there is some bad news, too. Dr. William Tighe added this sobering bit of information:

Well, yes, but when did John Wesley write this? In later life, he abandoned his earlier belief in the apostolic succession of bishops, and came to believe that presbyters and bishops were the same office; hence his consecration of Asbury & Coke as “superintendents” for American Methodists in (when? 1782?); subsequently they termed themselves “bishops.” Charles Wesley, who had not, like John, abandoned his earlier beliefs about Catholic Church Order, reproached John bitterly for these “consecrations.” Wesley, like Luther, changed some of his ideas as time went on – and for both of them the changes were away from historical Catholicism, not towards it.

It's a bummer, but this is what Protestantism tends to do, doesn't it? Move away from historic Catholic Christianity . . .

Alastair replied:

Yes, I was aware of that. However, this letter from Wesley does come 7 and a half years after his evangelical conversion. Wesley certainly did not see his evangelical convictions to be incompatible with his high ecclesiology for many years.

And this is an excellent consideration, assuming that Wesley did adopt a "lower" ecclesiology later in life. He managed to believe this "Catholic" stuff for seven years after adopting an evangelical stance and undergoing a profound personal experience of the Holy Spirit, and saw no radical inconsistency in that.

There are all sorts of examples of this, where the beliefs of prominent Protestant figures don't fit into the modern ("post-modern"?) evangelical mold: Luther's belief in the Immaculate Conception and baptismal regeneration, Bullinger's seeming acceptance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, Wesley's quite Catholic notions of sanctification and rejection of sola fide, Keble, Pusey, Newman and the Tractarians, C.S. Lewis' casual acceptance of purgatory and prayers for the dead, widespread Protestant belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary and the wrongness of contraception until very recent times (and a growing movement going back to that stance today), etc. G.K. Chesterton made one of his perceptive analogies between Protestant "borrowing" or continuing lots of different Catholic beliefs and practices, to Robinson Crusoe going out to the wrecked ship again and again to retrieve more things.

I think Protestants ought to ask themselves why that is. Is it not rather obvious that Rome remains, and indeed always has been the standard for the parameters, nature, and shape of historic Christianity? Time and again, Protestant movements discover (or I should say "rediscover") some "new" truth, only to realize that we Catholics had held it all along, from the beginning. It's shipwrecked Crusoe going back to the "ship" of historic Catholicism, which is still sitting out there. Once this happens over and over, I think some folks (like myself in 1990) will start thinking of converting to this remarkable Church which seems to somehow (despite all its outward warts and flaws and laxity and/or ignorance of many of its members) "get it right" over and over. Ronald Knox made the journey across the Tiber. He wrote in his recounting of that odyssey:

I read . . . Milman's (soundly Protestant) History of Latin Christianity . . . he comments upon the extraordinary precision with which, time after time, the Bishops of Rome managed to foresee which side the Church would eventually take in a controversy, and "plumped" for it beforehand . . . Each time Rome . . . thinks today what the world will think tomorrow . . . the Catholic party is the party in which the Bishop of Rome was, and nothing else . . . The Papacy seemed to be the thing which medieval Christendom was certain about . . . I had taken no new intellectual step: I saw the same set of facts, and my intellect made an entirely different report of them . . .

I had been . . . fully prepared to find, that the immediate result of submission to Rome would be the sense of having one's liberty cramped and restricted in a number of ways . . . My experience has been exactly the opposite. I have been overwhelmed with the feeling of liberty . . . You can carry a weight so long that you cease to feel it; instead, you feel an outburst of positive relief when it is withdrawn. The suppressed uncertainty of mind was like a dull toothache that had been part of my daily experience . . . It was not till I became a Catholic that I became conscious of my former homelessness . . . I now found ease and naturalness, and stretched myself like a man who has been sitting in a cramped position . . . Nor do I feel cabined and cramped because intellectual speculation is now guided and limited for me by actual authority, as it had been . . . . by my own desire for orthodoxy.

(A Spiritual Aeneid, New York: Sheed and Ward, 1950 ed., 192-196, 218-220, 222)

Saturday, June 05, 2004

S. Joel Garver's "On The 'Catholic Question'" (With Commentary by Dave Armstrong)

Dr. Stephen Joel Garver is an assistant professor of philosophy at La Salle University in Philadelphia, who writes also on theological topics. He is a Reformed Protestant. Joel's words will be in black and mine in blue. See his complete essay. I will not respond to everything, but rather, to selected portions where I disagree (but I didn't all that much), or which are particularly stimulating and thought-provoking (the latter are numerous, as Dr. Garver is an excellent and ecumenical writer, with lots of important insights to offer). His words will be in blue. See also the background documents:

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My primary focus here is not upon social or political issues or inter-confessional cooperation per se. Instead, my focus is upon the possibility that 20th century Roman Catholicism, at least in certain quarters of it, has reconfigured itself so that it is more open to the genuine concerns of the Protestant Reformation and is more able to incorporate important Protestant distinctives concerning justification into its own theological interests and traditions.

I think this is true. Dialogue and ecumenism have definitely taken a giant leap forward in the last 100 years (especially the last 50). I think that often it is the case that we are not as far apart on many issues in actuality, as many on both sides have supposed. That is a function of increased mutual education and understanding. And Catholics can accept many things that Protestants believe as not contrary to existing dogmas. This was a strong underlying theme of Louis Bouyer's book from 1958: The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism.

Furthermore, I believe that, among the various Protestant confessional traditions, Reformed theology has a unique ability and responsibility to engage Catholicism on these matters.

I agree, though Lutheranism and traditional Anglicanism are not far behind in that respect, and closer to Catholic thought in specific areas (such as the Eucharist in Lutheranism and the authority of Tradition in Anglicanism).

The various statements which have been produced, it seems to me, do not engage the relevant doctrinal and theological issues at a level that is sufficiently deep, at least not deep enough to allay my fears of too hasty of a unity or too harsh of a polemics.

I disagree with this. It is the very nature of such statements that they function in a "creed-like" fashion within an ecumenical framework and context. Such summaries are not intended to be extensive theological treatises, nor can they be. They are basic tools for further, much more involved discussion (and distinct from the latter). They are, in a word, a "start."


I question the advisability of an ecumenical process that is premised upon less centrally doctrinal concerns and the danger, therein, of relativizing the truth-claims of the Christian Gospel as those have been understood within classical Protestantism.

These are attempts at finding what we truly have in common, and areas of almost total agreement. Social and political and moral issues are often areas of common ground, so they were emphasized in the ECT document. It is an effort to promote what Protestant apologist Francis Schaeffer called "co-belligerency" against the zeitgeist and secular world which all Christians confront and challenge. I don't see that "relativizing" is in play here. Acknowledging whatever we have in common (e.g., sola gratia) is not watering-down anything. It is simply stating that "we agree on points a, b, and c. We still disagree on d, e, and f." No one has to deny their own distinctives. This is what I regard as the practical genius and workability of ECT. It's a realistic approach to ecumenism; neither a liberal compromise nor a pie-in-the-sky pretense that groups agree on particulars when in fact they do not.

Furthermore, such dangers are heightened, it seems to me, when such ecumenical projects are pursued outside of the framework of established ecclesiastical organizations, among para-church ministries. It is not clear to me that such public declarations of unity are necessary or salutary for continued cooperation between Christians from a variety of churches. Still, the goal of unity in truth, among all Christians, is praiseworthy.

Well, one must start somewhere. Parachurch organizations have been the source of many helpful initiatives and endeavors among Protestants, and even in the Catholic Church, there is a growing lay involvement (encouraged by Vatican II and Pope John Paul II) such as the movement I am myself a part of: lay apologetics and evangelism. Both sides should certainly seek to be in accord with the more "official" doctrines that they are seeking to represent.

In the case of ACE [Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals], I do not doubt that their response is motivated by a zeal for maintaining our Reformation distinctives which we all should rightly see as important and central to the message of the Gospel. The efforts of ECT are, evidently, a great worry to ACE, in that ECT can appear to compromise that Gospel message in the ways I have outlined already.

I think this is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the goals and nature of ECT, and a needless alarmism. ECT does not require Protestants or Catholics to give up their distinctives. It only highlights the common ground. I happen to believe that the Gospel can be defined in a (biblical) fashion that includes all the major Christian traditions (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism), and I have seen various prominent Reformed writers (e.g., N.T. Wright) make the same point. He wrote:
When Paul refers to ‘the gospel’, he is not referring to a system of salvation, though of course the gospel implies and contains this, nor even to the good news that there now is a way of salvation open to all, but rather to the proclamation that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth has been raised from the dead and thereby demonstrated to be both Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true Lord. ‘The gospel’ is not ‘you can be saved, and here’s how’; the gospel, for Paul, is ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.

(Rutherford House lecture: New Perspectives on Paul)
I don't believe that the Gospel is confined to the Reformed Protestant sophisticated soteriological version of it (TULIP, etc.); I think it is larger than that, as a matter of category. See my papers:

The Gospel, as Preached by the First Christians

Good News: An Evangelical / Catholic Presentation of the Gospel Message

What is the Gospel?

Therefore, I don't see that ECT forces anyone to compromise. It is a sort of Mere Christianity effort (for those who are familiar with C.S. Lewis). Lewis himself wrote in that book that Christians ultimately need to go into their own "rooms" (which represented denominational traditions) but that they could come into the great hall which represented those doctrines held in common by all Christians. That is what ECT is about.

In the following remarks I make use of two documents in particular, ECT's "The Gift of Salvation" (hereafter "Gift") and ACE's "An Appeal to Fellow Evangelicals" (hereafter "Appeal"). My basic thesis is the following. Whatever the peculiar motivations of the ECT statement and no matter how problematic those motivations may or may not be, I cannot see that "The Gift of Salvation" affirms anything in regard to Catholic and Protestant unity that is not true as far as it goes.

. . . the co-signers claim that each of their traditions may be understood in such a way so that they may jointly affirm a modest commonality in faith between Catholics and Evangelicals, one that is, on the part of the various signatories, fully consistent with, convinced by, and faithful to their respective traditions . . .

In this regard it is important to note that nowhere does "Gift" imply that no traditional differences remain on how the full implications of the Gospel are to be understood. Some of those differences are even said to be "persistent" and "serious," thereby requiring "further and urgent exploration." Thus, "Gift" evinces a willingness to admit that there are areas in which Catholics and Evangelicals cannot yet agree.


The fact that "Gift" does not affirm the doctrine of "sola fide" in its precise Reformational formula is really no surprise. First, the document never claims to do so. Second, so long as they wish to remain faithful to Catholic teaching, it is not possible for the Catholic participants to affirm the sola fide formulation . . . The Council of Trent closed the door on the option of affirming the sola fide formula in Canon 9 of its Sixth Session. Even as Protestants, we wish to maintain that while only faith justifies, faith alone does not. The "sola" of sola fide is adverbial, not adjectival. As the post-reformation Reformed theologian Francis Turretin writes, "faith alone does not justify, but only faith justifies; the coexistence of love with faith in him who is justified is not denied, but its co-efficiency or cooperation in justification" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology).

Despite the real differences, there is very significant common ground between the two traditions, which are not nearly as far apart as the common polemics on both sides would suggest. See my papers:

Reflections on Faith and Works and Initial Justification

Martin Luther on Sanctification and the Absolute Necessity of Good Works as the Proof of Authentic Faith

I doubt that the denial of imputation necessarily amounts to a denial of the Gospel itself, at least so long as one maintains that salvation is by grace alone, because of Christ alone, and that faith is sufficient for receiving it. Experience and history suggest that such a doctrine can lead to saving knowledge of Christ. And the "Gift" statement appears to be affirming at least this much in regard to justification.

Of course denying imputation is not a denial of the Gospel, because it is only a technical theory of soteriology, whereas the Gospel is the Good News of the events in Jesus' life and His death on the cross and Resurrection and Ascension (at least that is how the Bible clearly seems to define it). Protestant scholars Alister McGrath and Norman Geisler have both pointed out that imputed justification was essentially absent between the time of the apostles and Luther. So if it is essential to the Gospel, then there was no Gospel for all that time. This would include the "Gospel" of people like St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, St. Anselm, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Before turning to the resources of Reformed theology, it will be helpful to outline precisely what a Catholic who is faithful to his church's teaching may or may not affirm in regard to imputation. The main difficulty here is, naturally, the Council of Trent. It spoke of inherent righteousness worked in us by Christ through the Holy Spirit flowing from the merits of Christ. It is by this righteousness that we are justified (i.e., made just; Trent never talks of being declared just). While, in some sense, this righteousness is truly ours and created in us, it is also God’s justice "for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is of God" (Decree of the Sixth Session, Chapter 16).

Now, in itself, this does not eliminate an affirmation of "double justification" as proposed by the Colloquy and Diet of Regensburg in 1541 (also known as the Diet of Ratisbon; the "Regensburg Book" or "Liber Ratisbonensis" can be found in Melanthonis Opera, Corpus Reformatorum 4:190-238). According to the doctrine of duplex iustificare we are declared just in virtue of the imputation of Christ's justice and are made just in virtue of the infusion of Christ's justice (on the Protestant side Melanchthon, Bucer, Pistorius, and probably Calvin seemed willing to accept this; on the Catholic side it was Cardinal Contarini, Eck, Gropper, and Pflug). Thus "justification" is used in a dual sense, to cover what is affirmed in the Protestant doctrines of forensic justification and sanctification. The difficulty is that Trent, in an apparent reference to Regensburg, asserts that the infused, inherent righteousness of which it speaks is the "single [unica] formal cause of justification" (Chapter 7). The use of "unica" here (solitary, unique of a kind, one and one alone), seems to close the door on any theories of "duplex iustitia" or "duplex iustificare."

Nevertheless, Trent never explicitly condemns double justification in any of the anathemas of its Canons, though it had opportunity to do so (and we know that some of the members of the Council of Trent were amenable to the doctrine). Moreover, Trent leaves the door open to a doctrine of double justification when it only condemns those who insist that we are justified,
by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and "the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5) and remains in them...

(Canon 11, Sixth Session; emphasis mine)
This seems to open the door to the inclusion of the imputation of the justice of Christ within justification (not distinguishing, at present, two kinds of justification), so long as infusion is not denied.

This is very helpful and constructive ecumenical analysis. I don't believe that Trent rules out imputation altogether (as long as infused justification is not thereby denied). 

Furthermore, even in "double justification" while infusion is a formal cause (causa formalis) of being made just, the other side of the duplex—being declared just—technically speaking, has no formal cause because it does not have reference to any subjective (i.e., formal) change in the individual. Imputation is not the "formal cause" of the forensic declaration and so the assertion of imputation does not contradict the idea that justification, qua being made righteous, has a single (unica) formal cause.

. . . It seems to me that perhaps those of us who are Reformed rather than Lutheran would have hope that some kind of rapprochement between Protestants and Catholics is possible on this issue, especially in light of the modern developments within Catholic biblical and theological studies. After all, the central motif of Calvinian theology is not merely "imputation" (especially as that is understood in some sectors of confessional Lutheranism), but union with Christ. As Calvin himself writes:
Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our heart—in short, that mystical union—are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body—-in short, because he deigns to make us one with him. For this reason, we glory that we have fellowship of righteousness with him.

(Institutes 3.11.10; emphasis mine)

Calvin is not denying that justification (now being thought of in the narrower Protestant sense) is based on the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us, nor that justification in the primary biblical sense, is a forensic declaration. But what he is denying, is that the divine action of the Father, through the Spirit, uniting us to Christ, is an action to be conceived of wholly imputatively. The very same action by which we are united to Christ, unites us with all his benefits. And so, Calvin might well affirm that, in this sense, justification is not by means of (as Trent would say) "a sole imputation" that excludes the "pouring forth of grace and charity," even if the purely forensic aspect of God's one action is not identical with the pouring forth of other graces. For Calvin, by receiving Christ himself (the grace of God), all that is his, is also ours--whether his legal title to righteousness and vindication before God or his own divine charity--and in the application of redemption one is not prior to another. Thus one of Calvin's favorite phrases to describe justification is "fellowship of righteousness," emphasizing that we are in Christ and he is in us.

This is an excellent example, I think, of where Catholic and Protestant theology are far closer than generally supposed, even though they are not identical. It is unfortunate that slogans and catch-phrases have been so widespread (especially in Protestant circles). They foster an "either/or" mentality that works contrary to an effort to understand those outside our own faith-traditions. We must not only learn what someone believes, but why they believe what they do, and what lies behind usually simplified almost mantra-like expressions of various doctrines, such as sola fide or infused justification.

Only with distinctively Reformed emphases, I think, can we meet the Catholic objections to the Protestant focus on imputation. Not all Protestants, however, may be entirely happy with these emphases, and they have, in reality, been historically the focus of anti-Reformed Lutheran polemics and even a matter of some dispute within the Reformed tradition itself . . .

Oh yes. There are those in all camps who will oppose any effort at recognizing common ground as intrinsically a compromise position or a distortion of one or both viewpoints. The anti-Catholics and anti-Protestants will both work against any such effort in the most stringent, oppositional terms. But that can't stop those of us who are very concerned with Christian unity and more mutual understanding.

Nevertheless, the distinctively Reformed focus on union with Christ can answer some of the Catholic objections to imputation. On the Reformed view justification need not be a mere "legal fiction" nor is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness something that occurs alone, apart from union with all of Christ’s other benefits. While Christ’s righteousness is a iustitia aliena in that it is not accomplished by us or in us, it is also a iustitia inhaerens in that Christ himself, with his forensically declared righteousness, is truly in us by his Spirit. While Christ’s righteousness is extra nos in that it finds its origin and is accomplished apart from us, it is also in nobis in that we ourselves, in the transformative and enlivening action of being raised in union with Christ, have fellowship with his righteousness. While differences between Catholics and Protestants do very much remain on this particular issue, we cannot continue to say that there is a complete impasse between the Catholic doctrine of infusion and Reformed doctrine of imputation. To do so would be to close a door on any further conversation.

I couldn't agree more. I think this is very well-stated and argued indeed.

While Catholics do emphasize the cooperation of the believer with divine grace, Catholics also may teach that the grace of cooperation is a divine gift and, within the Thomistic tradition, God is seen as acting in the sinner in a way that could well be described, in Reformed terms, as monergistic. Catholics can quite honestly state, in the words of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, "Justification, as a transition from disfavor and unrighteousness to favor and righteousness in God’s sight, is totally God’s work" (paragraph 156.5; emphasis mine). This is because "as sinners...[people] are incapable of turning themselves to God to seek deliverance." Therefore, it must be the case that, "Justification takes place solely by God's grace." Thus whenever persons consent to God's justifying actions, "such personal consent [is] itself an effect of grace, not...an action arising from innate human abilities" (Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, paragraphs 19 and 20). Since this is case, we are never to place our trust in our own accomplishments, whether faith or works, but wholly in the mercy of Christ. It is of the very nature of faith to turn from self and apprehend Another.

To make room for "cooperation" or "assent" is not necessarily to replace Reformed monergism with a semi-Pelagian synergism. Rather, it is to place the human response of faith, which is truly an act of the person, within the framework of faith as an absolute gift . . . They [Catholics] too share with us the emphasis of Augustine and the Council of Orange that salvation is by grace alone (sola gratia).

This is a superb and wonderfully sympathetic description of Catholic theology. It is a delight to see such understanding coming from a non-Catholic and I highly commend Dr. Garver.

For now, I shall note that so long as we trust Christ alone, I cannot see how it affects our salvation whether or not we put our trust in Christ's righteousness as imputed or as infused. We are saved by faith in Christ, not faith in a particular doctrinal formulation. How Christ’s righteousness becomes ours is perhaps an area of disagreement between Catholics and Protestants, but it doesn’t undermine the saving power of the Gospel. If it did, then surely Augustine was not saved for he explicitly and self-consciously believed that it was infused and inwrought righteousness which justifies since he saw the meaning of the word "justification" as "to make just" (see, e.g., his De Spiritu et Littera 26, 45; cf. Alister McGrath’s Iustitia Dei vol 1[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986] for more on Augustine's views). In any case, an Evangelical could well argue that, since Protestants are correct and justification is in fact wrought by imputation, then the righteousness of Christ in which Catholics place their faith is, among other things, an imputed one, regardless whether or not they understand it in that sense.

. . . since Catholics hold that the gifts of faith and charity are given along with the gift of salvation as the means by which that salvation is received, they maintain the absolute primacy of grace. Since they maintain that faith and charity are Christ’s work of faith and charity in us, they maintain the absolute primacy of Christ’s work alone.

. . . the Second Vatican Council seems to have broadened the notion of faith beyond the narrowly intellectualistic definition of Trent. Thus it describes faith as that "by which man entrusts his whole self freely to God offering ‘the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals’ [Vatican I] and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him" (Dei Verbum 5). Furthermore, the individualistic, abstract, Aristotelian categories of scholasticism (e.g., fides formata or informata) are being revised within Catholic theology by the introduction of more personalist and existentialist ones. Saving faith is not mere assensus, but includes the fiducia emphasized by the Reformers.

Bravo!!!! This is excellent!

There is much reason to believe that there is a significant material convergence on this issue of the sufficiency of faith for justification, at least among certain Catholics and certain Evangelicals. And this is a convergence that is entirely consistent with their respective traditions. If the Catholic co-signers of "The Gift of Salvation" are willing to say that what they "affirm here is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by faith alone," then I think we should take them at their word. At the very least, our reaction should not be to continue in anti-Catholic polemics that claim that Catholicism continues in a clear and persistent denial of sola fide.

Again, it is often discovered that when the two sides really talk to each other and listen carefully, that they are not as far apart as either thought. I have much more hope that accord can be achieved with regard to the issue of justification than for the issue of authority and Tradition, where the differences are much greater.

I am hesitant, however, to maintain that our criterion of authenticity in regard to that Gospel is best expressed in the idea that justification by "faith alone" is the sole article by which the church stands or falls.

. . . the criterion of sola fide can risk becoming reductionistic in regard to the fullness of the biblical Gospel since the sacraments, preaching, the Lordship of Christ, and so on, are not simply dispensable. Such a criterion also focuses, it seems to me, too narrowly upon a particular formulation of the Gospel, one that does not possess a biblical warrant that is wholly beyond dispute. Thus, such a criterion does not address the possibility that the content of that Gospel may be accurately expressed in other terms. Given what we have seen in this essay, it appears that there is, at present, an open willingness within Catholicism (at least in certain of its quarters) to incorporate the concerns of the Reformation into its own theology.

In this light, I do not think that it is helpful to maintain, apart from further considerations, that the Catholic Church continues uniformly to preach a different Gospel or to have no authentic evangelism. To perpetuate that belief apart from careful study, theological precision, and extensive documentation, appears to caricature the best elements in Roman Catholic theology, if not to make an outright fabrication of them. In the past, such carelessness has, I believe, led any number of people to mistrust their Protestant leaders, theologians, and sources, even to the point where, in reaction, they abandoned their own Protestant distinctives to join the Roman Catholic Church. In this regard, Lorraine Boettner's Roman Catholicism stands as a crowning achievement in anti-Catholic pornography, leading more than one person astray with its vicious distortions and half-truths. As evangelical Protestants, we can and must do better than this. [bolding added]

I think Dr. Garver's way of approaching this general topic of ecumenism, particularly with regard to matters of justification and the Gospel, is exactly right, and should be followed by those on both sides who are interested in further unity and understanding across the party lines. I give this paper an A+ for the cogency of its arguments and the accuracy and profound insight of its content. Kudos!

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The "Ignorance" & "Poverty" of Jesus and the Disciples (?)

Finally back in business! I know your prayers must have done the trick! This is from an interesting exchange via e-mail with a friend of mine (and fellow metro Detroiter). Her words will be in blue:

A little while back I fired off an e-mail to you regarding the idea that Jesus and his disciples were dirty, poor and ignorant ..... the question came about because some friends attended a talk given by a fairly intelligent episcopalian Dean in which he raised the question about whether Jesus (and his friends - but mainly Jesus) were poor and ignorant... yes, I know the problems with episcopalians and Biblical interpretation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! However ..... here is the text of my question -If you have time, I'd really appreciate your thoughts. Is this actually a Church teaching? Is it to be found in early Church writings? Is this a later idea? It is of course often thrown at the Church that this was "how they controlled the masses" ... but I can't say that this sounds sensible at all.

It seems clear to me that they didn't have a lot of money. Somewhere it says that they were supported by several women. I don't know what the Church has said about it. It's pretty much common knowledge, I think. The patriarchs and kings were rich men, but those in the prophetic tradition usually were not. We see that in John the Baptist: the last of the prophets.

We always have this tradition that Jesus - and the disciples - were poor and ignorant (well, Jesus was not totally ignorant!!!!!!!!!!!!) - but you know what I mean) .... giving rise to speculations about whether Matt, Mark, Luke and John could have written gospels etc.

Not "ignorant," but relatively uneducated. Most of them were not intellectuals, from what we can tell. Several were fishermen. A tax collector might have been a little more educated (who knows?). Luke, however, was a doctor, and was an educated man. His Greek shows that (so I understand). I believe literacy was pretty widespread in Israel, so writing is no problem.

But also, there's always been some emphasis on Jesus being just plain 'poor' .... so we should not mind being poor too.

The Bible teaches us that it is not a disgrace to be poor, as long as we haven't caused our condition by not working (Paul wrote: "if any man does not work, let him not eat"). And it teaches that riches are not inherently evil, but they are the cause of many temptations, and often work against spirituality as an idol or distraction. I think the biblical attitude is expressed by Paul, where he says that he can be content in any situation: whether he has plenty or nothing, and is suffering (Philippians 4:11-13). He continued to make tents, but he did not always do so, and was supported by his flocks, or else had nothing at all on many occasions. He decided to preach the gospel "for free" (1 Cor 9:11-18). His position was that his labors as a missionary and evangelist were worthy of remuneration from other Christians and those whom he helped (and were now Christians), but that those he was preaching to should not have to pay for it.

Where does this come from? I know Jesus talks about the son of man having no where to lay his head - but that's kind of a poetic description of an itinerant preacher who does not buy a house and settle down but rather travels and stays with friends and family.

There is no indication that they have much money at all. In fact, when Jesus sent out the 70 to evangelize he told them not to take anything (Lk 10:4-7). They were like the early Franciscans: completely dependent upon the people to whom they preached the gospel. There are several little indications like that. It would take too long to locate all of them (that's your homework! LOL). E.g., Jesus told the rich young ruler to give up everything he had to follow Him. That indicates that all or many others had done the same.

Joseph was a carpenter - a worthy and important trade - he probably made a very reasonable income. And then there are our fishermen who owned their boats and nets and who would also have made a good income assuming a good catch. And Matthew of course was a tax collector so he could count, read and write and do his sums ...

Sure, but we have no indication in Scripture that Jesus did carpentry after the time of His baptism in the Jordan. We are specifically told that the fishermen "left their nets" and their trade; they gave it up (see Lk 5:10-11, Mt 4:18-22, Mk 1:16-20; cf. Mt 9:9 [Matthew] ). We have no reason to believe that Matthew would have continued collecting taxes; that would hardly fit in with his new task as a disciple. Jesus talks about "all who have left families" and so forth to follow Him, how they would be rewarded a hundredfold (Mk 10:29-30). The disciples had said to Him: "We have left everything to follow you" (Mk 10:28) It was a complete break. Therefore, it is a series of deductions based on indications like these which lead one to conclude that they were poor. But they were not "ignorant"; they were just relatively less educated and not of the intellectual class (as the scribes and Pharisees and rabbis would have been). Paul, of course, was an intellectual, and seems to even be a genius.

And Jesus read the scripture in the synagogue - so he could read - and then, what language would he have been reading?

Aramaic or Hebrew.

We hear about the gospel writers quoting primarily from the Septuagint (Greek, right?) ... so they could read Greek? So they could understand and speak Greek?

I believe so. There is some debate about whether the Gospels were originally written in Aramaic.

That would make them bi-lingual at least? Did the Roman occupying force speak latin? aramaic? greek?

Mostly Latin and Greek, I think. I'm no expert on all these linguistic questions.

How did our 'ignorant and poor' Jesus and disciples understand them thar Romans??

I think they spoke Greek as well, because the Middle East had been Hellenized. In The Passion, Mel Gibson had Jesus speaking Latin to Pilate. I'm sure he based that on some scholarship. One doesn't have to be an intellectual to know several languages, of course.

And then there was the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the 3 kings/wisemen/maggi (whatever the latest fashionable pc term might be) .. since THEY thought they were coming to visit a real KING they would not have brought just a teaspoon of each - they would have brought a generous portion, right?

That's a different question altogether. It looks like these were rich men, higher up in the social order.

So where do we get the idea of poverty, lack of education etc etc??

As far as I know, from the passages I have cited. When someone is more highly educated (Luke, Paul), that is mentioned in Scripture. Fishermen are not usually highly-educated intellectuals. And we can tell from the style of their writing. Luke is said to have a very sophisticated grasp of Greek. Paul's style and content is obviously on a very high level. Matthew, Mark, John, and Peter write on a more common, everyday level.

Is this chronological snobbery perchance? Or are there other first hand accounts that I've not yet read that describe poverty and ignorance?

Okay; now I'm gonna look up something in my New Bible Dictionary. Under "Poverty" (pp. 1016-1017) I found the following:

. . . so often were the rich oppressors that 'the poor' became almost a synonym for 'the pious' (Ps. 14:5-6).

. . . The worldly-minded Sadducees were generally wealthy, as were the tax-collectors.

Jesus was the son of poor parents (Lk 2:24), but there is no reason to suppose He lived in abject poverty . . . it appears that He used to pay the Temple tax (Mt. 17:24). Some of His disciples were reasonably well-to-do (Mk 1:20) and he had some fairly wealthy friends (Jn 12:3). He and the Twelve, however, shared a common purse (Jn 12:6). They were content to go without the comforts of home life (Lk 9:58), and yet found occasion for giving to the poor (Jn 13:29)

. . . the apostles were poor but made many rich (2 Cor 6:10).

Hope this was helpful to you.

Thanks so much, Dave! really appreciate your input: this is one of those areas where we take something for granted that might not be quite as we imagine it to be!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Ambiguous Relationship of Luther and the Early Protestants to St. Augustine (with Dr. Edwin Tait)

The words in blue are from Dr. Edwin Tait: an Anglican Church historian.

I asked Dave about this, and he gave me a reference to a letter of Melanchthon's in which Melanchthon said that he knew Augustine didn't fully support the Protestant view but cited him as a supporter because of Augustine's accepted authority. I have not looked at the context of this,

Here is the entirety of what I have in one of my papers:
Philip Melanchthon, in his letter to Johann Brenz (May 1531), illustrates how the Protestants had departed from patristic precedent:
Avert your eyes from such a regeneration of man and from the Law and look only to the promises and to Christ . . . Augustine is not in agreement with the doctrine of Paul, though he comes nearer to it than do the Schoolmen. I quote Augustine as in entire agreement, although he does not sufficiently explain the righteousness of faith; this I do because of public opinion concerning him.
(in Hartmann Grisar, Luther, six volumes, translated by E.M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 2nd edition, 1914, vol. 4, 459-460)
Grisar, on p. 459, states that "The letter was written by Melanchthon to Johann Brenz, but it had the entire approval of Luther, who even appended a few words to it. While clearly throwing overboard Augustine, it is nevertheless anxious to retain him."

The documentation Grisar gives is "end of May, 1531", Luthers Briefwechsel, 9, p. 18. This eleven-volume work was edited by L. Enders: Frankfurt & Stuttgart, 1884-1907; also 12 volumes, edited by G. Kawerau, Leipzig, 1910. Or is that also a biased source, since it is probably Lutheran and thus tilted toward Luther? :-)

and I'm not sure if it is quite as underhanded as Dave makes it sound.

I didn't make it "sound" anything at all. I merely quoted the portion of the letter that I have, from Grisar.

The Reformers clearly did believe that Augustine's view of grace was in important points coincident with their own, and that Augustine contradicted what most of their Catholic opponents were saying was the Catholic view.

And they also increasingly recognized that Augustine disagreed with key points of their theology as well. Grisar also cites Julius Kostlin (a well-known Protestant Luther scholar). He cites him as saying:
Luther could, indeed, appeal to St. Augustine in support of the thesis that man becomes righteous and is saved purely by God's gracious decree and the working of His Grace and not by any natural powers and achievements, but not for the further theory that man is regarded by God as just purely by the virtue of faith . . . nor that the Christian thus justified can never perform anything meritorious in God's sight but is saved merely by the pardoning grace of God which must ever anew be laid hold of by faith . . . Only gradually did the fundamental difference between the Augustinian view, his own and that of Paul become entirely clear to Luther.
(Grisar, ibid., IV, 458; citing Kostlin, Martin Luther. Sein Leben und seine Schriften, 5th ed., continued after Kostlin's death by G. Kawerau, 2 volumes, Berlin, 1903; quotation from vol. 1, 138. I located a biography of Luther by Kostlin online at the Project Gutenberg website. I believe this is an earlier edition of the same work.
Of course, this doesn't verify any deliberate botching of texts (I have not ever claimed that, and I believe I made this clear in our private correspondence), but it shows that Luther was indeed aware that his theology was diverging from St. Augustine's. I found the following statement in this online book (by Julius Kostlin):
Herein also Luther found the theology of St. Augustine in accord
with the testimony of the great Apostle. While studying that
theology, his conviction of the power of sin and the powerlessness
of man's own strength to overcome it, grew more and more decided.
But St. Paul taught him to understand that belief somewhat
differently to St. Augustine. To Luther it was not merely a
recognition of objective truths or historical facts. What he
understood by it, with a clearness and decision which are wanting in
St. Augustine's teaching, was the trusting of the heart in the mercy
offered by the message of salvation, the personal confidence in the
Saviour Christ and in that which He has gained for us. With this
faith, then, and by the merits and mediation of the Saviour in whom
this faith is placed, we stand before God, we have already the
assurance of being known by God and of being saved, and we are
partakers of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies more and more the inner
man. According to St. Augustine, on the contrary, and to all
Catholic theologians who followed his teaching, what will help us
before God is rather that inward righteousness which God Himself
gives to man by His Holy Spirit and the workings of His grace, or,
as the expression was, the righteousness infused by God. The good,
therefore, already existing in a Christian is so highly esteemed
that he can thereby gain merit before the just God and even do more
than is required of him. But to a conscience like Luther's, which
applied so severe a standard to human virtue and works, and took
such stern count of past and present sins, such a doctrine could
bring no assurance of forgiveness, mercy, and salvation. It was in
faith alone that Luther had found this assurance, and for it he
needed no merits of his own. The happy spirit of the child of God,
by its own free impulse, would produce in a Christian the genuine
good fruit pleasing in God's sight. It was a long time before Luther
himself became aware how he differed on this point from his chief
teacher amongst theologians. But we see the difference appear at the
very root and beginning of his new doctrine of salvation; and it
comes out finally, based on apostolic authority, clear and sharp, in
the theology of the Reformer.

Grisar gives a bit more evidence of the relationship of early Lutheranism to St. Augustine:
Against any citation of St. Augustine the Lutheran theologians and preachers in Pomerania protested during the negotiations for the formula of Concord. By thus falsely alleging this Father, they said in their declaration at the Synod of Stettin in 1577, a formidable weapon was placed in the hands of their Catholic opponents of which they had not failed to avail themselves against the Protestants; they were also assuming the responsibility for a public lie: "Augustine's book De spiritu et littera teaches concerning Justification what the Papists teach today." In the following year they declared against the form of the first Confessio Augustana, as published in Wittenberg in 1531 by Luther and our other fathers," again on the ground that "there Augustine's consensus is alleged." In Mecklenburg the strictures of the Synods of Pomerania were accepted as perfectly warranted. (Grisar, ibid., IV, 461)
(In this section Grisar was quoting well-known Catholic historian Johann Joseph Ignaz von Dollinger: Die Reformation, 3 volumes, Ratisbon: 1846-1848, III, 370)

That being the case, they were not above claiming Augustine and neglecting to make it clear that the agreement was not total.

. . . which is all I and Grisar have stated. So where is the beef? By all means go look at the letter yourself and then report back to us.

. . . Dave did not apparently read Melanchthon's letter as a whole.

That is correct, as I did not have access to Luther's correspondence in German, nor could I read German if I did. Maybe this letter is in the English edition?

I will look at the letter in question when next I have access to Melanchthon's letters in the Corpus Reformatorum.

Please do so, and I want as full a citation as possible. You want to press this point, so face the music if it comes out the way that it appears, from what we know thus far. It probably won't prove deliberate mis-quoting, but I think it will show that there was misrepresentation going on.

At any rate, Dave did not provide me with any evidence for outright fabrication.

That is correct.

The most the Melanchthon letter means is that at least one Reformer was willing to exaggerate the degree of Augustine's agreement with him for polemical purposes.

Correct again, except that, since Luther agreed with the letter and added to it, and since it appears in the collection of his own correspondence, that means at least two "Reformers" did so (including the most important one of all).

Lastly, we find in Luther's Table-Talk the following slams against St. Augustine and the Fathers:
Behold what great darkness is in the books of the Fathers concerning faith . . . Augustine wrote nothing to the purpose concerning faith. (DXXVI)
The more I read the books of the Fathers, the more I find myself offended. (DXXX)
Jerome should not be numbered among the teachers of the church, for he was a heretic. (DXXXV)
(edition translated by William Hazlitt, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, n.d., 286-289)
I don't see anything in any of the above that would disabuse me or any Catholic from the notion that the Protestants departed from the Fathers to a great extent, particularly from St. Augustine. The Catholic Church is far more the legatee of Augustine than Reformed Protestantism.

I found a website where one Michael J. Vlach is reviewing Alister E. McGrath's book, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (2d. ed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

Here are some interesting comments showing that Protestantism departed from Augustine at several key points:
McGrath refers repeatedly to the enormous significance of Augustine on soteriology. He points out that Augustine is the first major theologian of church history to seriously address the issue of justification (24). Although Augustine’s views would undergo development and change in his own lifetime, many of his positions would eventually become predominant in the medieval era.
Some of Augustine’s key views according to McGrath include:
· Man’s election is based on God’s eternal decree of predestination.
· Free will is not lost; it is merely incapacitated and may be healed by grace.

· The act of faith is a divine gift.

· Faith is adherence to the Word of God.

· It is love, not faith, that is the power that brings about conversion.

· There is a distinction between operative and cooperative grace.

· The righteousness of God is that by which God justifies sinners.

· God’s prevenient grace prepares man’s will for justification.
In specific relation to justification, Augustine held the following:
· The motif of amor Dei dominates Augustine’s theology of justification.

· The verb ‘to justify’ means ‘to make righteous.’ Thus, justification is about being ‘made just.’

· Justification is all-embracing, including both the event of justification and the process of justification.

· Man’s righteousness in justification is inherent rather than imputed.
The predominant view of justification in the medieval era was this: “Justification refers not merely to the beginning of the Christian life, but also to its continuation and ultimate perfection, in which the Christian is made righteous in the sight of God and the sight of men through a fundamental change in his nature, and not merely his status” (41). With this understanding, there was no distinction between justification and sanctification that would later characterize Reformation orthodoxy. Other views associated with the medieval era according to McGrath include:
· The infusion of grace initiates a chain of events that eventually leads to justification.

· Justification consists in the remission of sins.

· Justification involves a real change in its object.

· Man has a positive role to play in his own justification.

· A human disposition toward justification is necessary.

· Justification takes place within the sphere of the church and is particularly associated with the sacraments of baptism and penance.

· Grace is understood in Augustinian terms, including the elements of restoration of the divine image, forgiveness of sins, regeneration, and indwelling of the Godhead.
. . . McGrath does positively assert that the origins of the concept of imputed righteousness “lie with Luther” (201).
If this concept originated with Luther, it could hardly have also been the view of St. Augustine. I found another fascinating article in the excellent evangelical online journal, Quodlibet (which I have linked to on my website for several years now): "Justification as Healing: The Little-Known Luther," by Ted M. Dorman.

Here are some relevant comments:
Reformed Protestantism's historic distinction between the passive or imputed righteousness of Christ given in justification, and the active or infused righteousness given in sanctification, has its genesis in Luther's thought. Prior to Luther justification had been tied to regeneration, so that the forgiveness of sins was viewed not merely as a forensic declaration of the believer's status as righteous before God, but as a process whereby the believer is actually made righteous. In this way, as Alister McGrath has pointed out, Luther introduced a theological novum into the Western church tradition 'which marks a complete break with the tradition up to this point.' [1]
[Footnote 1: Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. Two volumes. Cambridge University Press, 1986. See Volume I pages 182ff. and Volume II pages 2f. The quotation is from II:]
The Reformers did not deny the reality of infused righteousness. Indeed, they insisted that justifying (passive) righteousness never exists apart from sanctifying (active) righteousness. [2] At the same time, however, they made a 'notional distinction' between justification and sanctification where none had previously existed. [3]
[Footnote 2: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion III.2.8. Footnote 3: McGrath, Iustitia Dei II.2]
. . . the earlier views of Luther, as opposed to his later views, are more in line with the pre-Reformation classical Christian consensus on justification . . .
[Footnote 8: This notion of a shift between Luther's earlier and later positions on justification is generally rejected by Lutherans]
. . . A survey of Martin Luther's writings between 1515 and 1521 reveals a doctrine of justification which in some ways bears more resemblance to Augustine's teachings than those of the later Luther himself. This is not to say that Luther consciously followed Augustine; indeed, in 1545 he wrote that he formulated his early perspectives on justification before he had read Augustine on the subject.
. . . Some time after 1521 Luther's ideas concerning the relationship between faith, justification, and obedience to God's commands underwent significant revision. By the time he wrote his 1535 commentary on Galatians, Luther no longer emphasized obedience to God's commandments as an expression of justifying faith. Instead, he divided justifying faith and obedience to God's commandments into separate categories. The former he ascribed to the 'passive righteousness of Christ'; the latter to the 'active righteousness of the Law.'
[Footnote 24: Luther's Works Volume 26, 9: 'For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the Law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle {i.e., common} ground.']
In the opening paragraphs of his 1535 Galatians commentary Luther explicitly divorces the commandments of God from the righteousness of faith. After identifying various kinds of 'righteousness' (political, ceremonial, parental, and moral) Luther goes on to say:
There is, in addition to these [various kinds of righteousness], yet another righteousness, the righteousness of the Law or of the Decalog, which Moses teaches. We, too, teach this, but after the doctrine of faith. . . . . Over and above all these there is the righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness, which is to be distinguished most carefully from all the others. For they are all contrary to this righteousness, both because they proceed from the laws of emperors, the traditions of the pope, and the commandments of God, and because they consist in our works and can be achieved by us . . . . But this most excellent righteousness, the righteousness of faith, which God imputes to us through Christ without works . . . . is quite the opposite; it is a merely passive righteousness, while all the others, listed above, are active. For here we work nothing, render nothing to God; we only receive and permit someone else to work in us, namely, God.
[Footnote 25: Luther's Works Volume 26, 4f.]
. . . Whatever may have occasioned Luther's shift in thinking between 1521 and 1535, it is a matter of historical record that after about 1530 the Protestant Reformers defined justification almost solely in forensic terms as the forgiveness of sins.
[Footnote 38: McGrath, Iustitia Dei II 2. See also McGrath's comment on page 23 that Philip Melanchthon's increasing emphasis on iustitia aliena from about 1530 onward provided the chief impetus to this shift. To what degree Melanchthon influenced Luther, or vice-versa, is beyond the scope of this study.]
. . . In addition to Luther, three classical Christian sources demonstrate that prior to the Reformation the Church viewed justification as both an event and a process. These three are Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury, and Thomas Aquinas.
Augustine's influence on Luther and Calvin is difficult to overstate, especially with relation to the doctrine of total depravity . . . Yet Trent's emphasis on justification as a process does find precedent in Augustine, perhaps Luther's favorite classical theologian, who spoke of justification not merely as a singular event but also as a process 'by which [God] justifies those who from unrighteousness He makes righteous.'
[Footnote 42: Sermon 131; cited in Thomas Oden, Life in the Spirit (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992), 125. See also Catechism of the Catholic Church (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press 1994), 481ff. (Part Three, Chapter 3, Article 2). Also worthy of note here is that Augustine, like Luther a millennium later, spoke of Christ as a physician who heals our diseases (On the Spirit and the Letter chapters 9 and 10). A useful summary of Augustine's doctrine of justification may be found in Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 83-87.]
[ . . . ]
[Footnote 47: It must be noted that both Anselm and Aquinas followed Augustine in that neither entertained the Reformers' notional distinction between justification and sanctification, and both tended to emphasize infused righteousness.]
Lastly, I looked up every single reference to St. Augustine in my copy of the Book of Concord (the doctrinal standard for Lutheranism). Without exception it claims that Augustine is in full agreement with Lutheran doctrine. Furthermore, it makes outright false factual claims, such as that Augustine denied ex opere operato (the notion that the sacraments have inherent power apart from the dispenser or recipient), purgatory, and (though not completely clear), baptismal regeneration. These are all erroneous judgments. Augustine wrote:
It is this one Spirit who makes it possible for an infant to be regenerated through the agency of another’s will when that infant is brought to Baptism . . . The water, therefore, manifesting exteriorly the benefit of grace, both regenerate in one Christ that man who was generated in one Adam.
(Letter to Bishop Boniface, 98, 2; A.D. 408; in Jurgens, William A., editor and translator, The Faith of the Early Fathers {FEF}, 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970, III, 4)
The Sacraments of the New Testament give salvation . . .
(Explanations of the Psalms, 73, 2; A.D. 418; in Jurgens, III, 19)
It is an excellent thing that the Punic Christians call Baptism itself nothing else but salvation, and the Sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else but life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ hold inherently that without Baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture too.
The Sacrament of Baptism is most assuredly the Sacrament of regeneration.
. . . there is a full remission of sins in Baptism.
(Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, 1, 24, 34 / 2,
27, 43 /2, 28, 46; 412; in Jurgens, FEF, III, 91-93)
Luther and Augustine agree with regard to baptism, but (strangely), confessional Lutheranism seems to have become a bit confused about baptism and moves away from Luther's traditionalism in that respect. As for purgatory, Augustine wrote:
The man who perhaps has not cultivated the land and has allowed it to be overrun with brambles has in this life the curse of his land on all his works, and after this life he will have either purgatorial fire or eternal punishment.
(Genesis Defended Against the Manicheans, 2, 20, 30. Jurgens, FEF, vol. 3, 38)
Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment.
(City of God, 21, 13. Jurgens, FEF, vol. 3, 105)
The prayer . . . is heard on behalf of certain of the dead; but it is heard for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not for the rest of their life in the body do such wickedness that they might be judged unworthy of such mercy, nor who yet lived so well that it might be supposed they have no need of such mercy.
(City of God, 21, 24, 2. Jurgens, FEF, vol. 3, 106)
That there should be some such fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, - through a certain purgatorial fire.
(Enchiridion of Faith, Hope and Love, 18,69, Jurgens, FEF, vol. 3, 149. See also -- in the same work -- 29,109-110; The Care That Should be Taken of the Dead, 1,3)
So we see the usual Protestant project of trying to co-opt the Fathers (above all, St. Augustine) for their purposes and views (in an effort to show that Protestantism is entirely "catholic" and in accord with the best of all previous Christian tradition), in the Book of Concord. But the attempt fails miserably, because, as we have seen, modern Protestant scholarship shows many profound differences between Protestantism and St. Augustine, particularly with regard to soteriology and justification in particular.

Does this mean that the Book of Concord and Philip Melanchthon (its primary author) were deliberately dishonest, and rascally scoundrels? I would not make that claim, and I don't think so. Much more likely is that their Protestant and anti-Roman biases simply blinded them to certain facts and thus led to inaccuracies. Or they did inadequate research (there was no Internet in those days which gives someone like myself an ability to come up with relevant materials lightning-fast).
But whatever is true regarding their motives and intentions, the fact of erroneous presentation of St. Augustine as in entire agreement with Protestant distinctives is indisputable. We need go no further than McGrath (no slouch and no mean scholar) to see that very clearly.

I was originally responding to Mathitria's claim that the Reformers were deliberately dishonest. When I asked you where Mathitria got this, you supplied me with this quote from Grisar. Which is why I referred to it as if you had intended it to prove deliberate deceit. It certainly does indicate Melanchthon's use of some degree of "dissimulation" (to use a term Erasmus employed from time to time).

Indeed, and that is why I am quite curious to see if you can locate the entire letter and share it with us.

I wish this surprised me, but it doesn't. Of course, this indicates how false the idea is that the Reformers were all about throwing theology open to ordinary people--they wanted to keep some of the tough issues away from the people just as much as any of their Catholic opponents.

Of course.

However, my point is that Melanchthon clearly did believe that Augustine was in more agreement with the Reformers than with their opponents--just not close enough. Luther held the same view. The Reformed sometimes did also, though generally they tended to be more positive about the Fathers (not what you would expect, but it seems to be the case).

They can believe this, but demonstrating it is another matter.

McGrath is certainly right that imputed righteousness is not in the Fathers, and Luther admitted this. However, the Reformers still believed that Augustine was on their side in some fundamental ways. And many of the self-proclaimed champions of Catholicism do seem to have been rather deaf to the Augustinian side of the tradition. Sadoleto's commentary on Romans was in fact condemned at Rome for semi-Pelagianism, and I believe Pighius also had some trouble in this regard (these are two of Calvin's more famous Catholic opponents). Unfortunately, Girolamo Seripando (general of the Augustinian Order) never went head to head with the Reformers, as far as I know. It would have been interesting to see what he would have said. Seripando is clearly more faithful to Augustine than Luther or Calvin. I'm not sure the same could be said of all the Catholic theologians of that era. And not all of Seripando's Augustinian views were accepted at Trent.

It's because there were lots of theories on justification flying around. People were confused. But someone like Aquinas wasn't confused about the issue. Because the late Middle Ages was trying to move away from Aquinas and Scholasticism, we got all the semi-Pelagianism and other goofy mystical theories being bandied about. Too bad it took so long to get Trent to clarify things. But once it did it was brilliant.

Patristic scholarship was still only just getting off the ground at this point, and many of the best patristic scholars became Protestants. It wasn't till the turn of the 17th century that Catholics recovered the edge. The Protestants did use a lot of bogus arguments to try to show that the Fathers were on their side. I agree with you that these arguments were probably mostly in good faith.
I think people (of any viewpoint) often see what they want to see, and don't see what they don't want to see.

I don't know all the details of the controversies leading up to the Formula of Concord. I don't know off the top of my head which Lutheran camp the Pomeranians fall into, though they sound like hardline "Gnesio-Lutherans." However, it would be a mistake to assume that they represent Lutheranism as a whole. On the contrary, they were clearly upset with the more general practice of claiming Augustine's authority.

No one was saying they represent Lutheranism "as a whole." My point in citing that was to show that even among Protestants there were parties who knew that Augustine was being inaccurately claimed as a precursor in some things. I saw it with my own eyes, looking through the Book of Concord. Now, I hope you discover the letter of Melanchthon and produce it here, so we can wrap this up.

I did look up the Melanchthon letter. It turned out to be quite interesting from the point of view of my dissertation (one recently completed--but still much-to-be-revised--chapter of which compares my guy Martin Bucer with Luther and Melanchthon on the subject of law vs. Gospel; some of the things Melanchthon is criticizing Brenz for are pretty much what Bucer said).

Yes; there is much more of soteriology in it than of Augustine and how he was viewed or utilized by the first Protestants.

I've translated Melanchthon's entire letter and part of Brenz's reply. My translation was pretty quick . . . I tried to err on the side of literalism, especially where theological concepts were being discussed.
Thanks for doing this; I appreciate it. Here it is (I broke it up in paragraphs myself -- so that will not necessarily reflect original paragraphs -- if there were any):
[Background and context: Melanchthon had written to Brenz on April 8, saying that he understood why Brenz, a newly married man, hadn’t written, but asking him to start corresponding again. He also sent some propositions about justification. Brenz must have commented on them in a letter not found in the collection of Melanchthon’s correspondence. In mid-May Melanchthon responded]:
I received your rather long letter, which I enjoyed very much. I beg you to write often and at length. Regarding faith, I have figured out what your problem is (1). You still hold on to that notion of Augustine’s, who gets to the point of denying that the righteousness of reason is reckoned for righteousness before God—and he thinks rightly. Next he imagines that we are counted righteous on account of that fulfillment of the Law which the Holy Spirit works in us. So you imagine that people are justified by faith, because we receive the Holy Spirit by faith, so that afterwards we can be righteous by the fulfillment of the law which the Holy Spirit works in us.
This notion places righteousness in our fulfillment, in our cleanness or perfection, even though this renewal must follow faith. But you should turn your eyes completely away from this renewal and from the law, and toward the promise and Christ, and you should think that we are righteous, that is, accepted before God, and find peace of conscience, on account of Christ, and not on account of that renewal. For this new quality itself does not suffice. Therefore we are righteous by faith alone, not because it is the root, as you write, but because it lays hold of Christ, on account of whom we are accepted, whatever this new life (2) may be like—indeed it follows necessarily, but it does not give the conscience peace.
Therefore love, which is the fulfillment of the law, does not justify, but faith alone, not because it is a certain perfection in us, but only because it lays hold of Christ. We are righteous, not on account of love, not on account of the fulfillment of the law, not on account of our new life, even though these things are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but on account of Christ; and we lay hold of this only through faith.
Augustine does not fully accord with (3) Paul’s pronouncement, even though he gets closer to it than the Scholastics. And I cite Augustine as fully agreeing with us (4) on account of the public conviction about him, even though he does not explain the righteousness of faith well enough. Believe me, dear Brenz, the controversy about the righteousness of faith is great and obscure. Nonetheless, you will understand it rightly if you totally take your eyes away from the law and Augustine’s notion about the fulfillment of the law, and fix your mind rather on the free promise, so that you think that we are righteous (that is, accepted) and find peace on account of the promise and on account of Christ. This pronouncement is true and makes Christ’s glory shine forth and wonderfully raises up [people’s] consciences. I have tried to explain it in the Apology, but it was not possible to speak in the same way there as I do now because of the calumnies of our opponents, even though I am saying the same thing essentially. (5)
When would the conscience have peace and a sure hope if it had to think that we are only counted righteous when that new life has been made perfect within us? What is this other than to be justified on the basis of the law, not the free promise? In the disputation I said this: that to attribute justification to love is to attribute justification to our work. There I have in mind the work done by the Holy Spirit in us. For faith justifies, not because it is a new work of the Holy Spirit in us, but because it lays hold of Christ, on account of whom we are accepted, not on account of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.
If you will consider that the mind must be brought back from Augustine’s notion, you will easily understand the issue. Also, I hope to help you in some way by means of our apology, even if I speak cautiously of such things, which however cannot be understood except in the conflict of the conscience. The people indeed ought to hear the preaching of law and repentance; but meanwhile this true pronouncement of the Gospel must not be passed over. I ask you to write again, and let me know your judgment about this letter and the apology—whether this letter has satisfactorily answered your question. Farewell.
Phil. Mel.
Luther’s P.S.
And I, dear Brenz, in order to get a better grip on this issue frequently imagine it this way: as if in my heart there is no quality that is called faith or charity, but instead of them I put Christ himself and say: this is my righteousness; He is the quality and my formal righteousness, as they call it. In this way I free myself from the perception (6) of the law and works, and even from the perception of this object, Christ (7), who is understood as a teacher or a giver; but I want Him to be my gift and teaching in Himself, so that I may have all things in Him. (8) So he says: I am the way, the truth and the life. He does not say: I give you the way, the truth and the life, as if He worked in me while being placed outside of me. He must be such things in me, remain in me, live in me, speak not through me but into me (9), 2 Cor. 5; so that we may be righteousness in Him, not in love or in gifts that follow.
(1) Lit. “I hold/grasp what exercises you/should excercise you/might exercise you”.
(2) Lit. newness.
(3) Lit., does not satisfy.
(4) Melanchthon uses a Greek word which means “one who says the same”; “with us” is my addition since it’s understood in the original.
(5) Lit. in the thing/matter itself.
(6) Latin: ab intuitu.
(7) Or in another reading, this objective Christ.
(8) “Object” means “object of thought”—Luther’s point is that he doesn’t even think of Christ as a source of teaching or of gifts, such as the gift of charity.
(9) Luther uses the Greek here.
I think this correspondence makes it clear that there were disagreements among the Reformers about just how authoritative Augustine was and how close their teaching was to his. While Brenz's letter to which Melanchthon took exception appears to have been lost (or perhaps just hasn't been edited), his reply makes a very Augustinian point, namely that faith is itself a work. I would also say that Bucer, on whom I'm writing my dissertation, is more Augustinian (and in places even Thomist) than many of the other Reformers. Which I don't think contradicts anything you were saying.

No; I would expect differences on the continuum.

But the impression you gave, at least as quoted by Mathitria, was that the Reformers as a whole could not justify their views by the Fathers and realized not only that they couldn't but that this was a serious problem, so they resulted to dishonesty to cover it up.

The claim of my earlier paper was simply: "the Protestants had departed from patristic precedent." That is certainly an unarguable statement as it stands (people like McGrath and Oberman and Pelikan and Kelly establish it beyond all doubt -- even Norman Geisler, when he admits that imputed justification was unknown from the time of Paul to that of Luther). I said nothing about dishonesty -- let alone deliberate dishonesty. I simply cited the portion of the letter that Grisar had and let the reader decide for himself how to interpret it. My view, as it turns out, is identical to your own: it wasn't deliberate lying or deception, but a certain "playing fast and loose with the facts":
They were not above claiming Augustine and neglecting to make it clear that the agreement was not total.
The most the Melanchthon letter means is that at least one Reformer was willing to exaggerate the degree of Augustine's agreement with him for polemical purposes.
It certainly does indicate Melanchthon's use of some degree of "dissimulation" . . .
So we agree on that, and nothing in the letter as a whole suggests otherwise. Therefore, Grisar was not citing it in a hyper-polemical, unscholarly way himself. As far as I am concerned, he is vindicated, at least insofar as pertains to his use of this letter. You claimed he was so biased that I shouldn't have trusted him to even accurately present a portion of a letter. We continue to disagree on that. If you wish to show that Grisar was so polemical and "anti-Luther" that he can't be trusted, you will have to show it elsewhere. I get tired of hearing this claim from Protestants, but never seeing any hard evidence of it. So the weariness concerning the use and/or abuse of Grisar works both ways, methinks.

Please bear in mind that my initial issue was not with what you actually said but with what Mathitria was saying.

I understand that, but you raised larger issues about Grisar and apologetic / historiographical methodology, which I felt were important to deal with.

He cited you as an authority, and it is clear that he cited you incorrectly.

It may have been a problem of terminology. We probably don't need to blame Mathitria anymore than we need to blame Melanchthon. The important thing is to get to the facts. If I hadn't cited this particular letter from Grisar, you probably would have never heard of it or read it -- let alone learned something about Melanchthon and Luther's relationship to Augustine. So see, we do work together after all, and you and I agree about Melanchthon's (and Luther's) view of Augustine. And we appear to agree with the interpretation of a guy like McGrath, who represents current-day scholarship.

Note, however, that McGrath also backs up Grisar's main point in all this: that Augustine's view was different from the early Protestants, and that this was underplayed and ignored in documents such as the Book of Concord. That was always his beef (and mine), because it (yet again) cuts through the nonsense of early Protestantism supposedly returning to the patristic teachings. One can't return to something that never was. That makes Protestantism a revolution, not a reform, and this is what I have always held, since my conversion in 1990.

You went and found the actual letter in question, and what it showed was exactly what I (and Grisar) claimed for it in the beginning. So there was nothing even methodologically questionable here. I simply quoted a letter from a secondary source (but that source was a reputable historian and author of a six-volume work on one man).

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 28 January 2004.

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