Monday, November 09, 2009

Open Forum (This Installment Features Soteriology)

Please engage in discussions here, that have nothing to do with existing posts (e.g., the Beatles remasters post that has by now been host to almost every topic known to man). Thanks.

100 comments:

Nick said...

Hi,

If you don't mind, I'd like to get this discussion started with the topic of the "imputation of Christ's Righteousness," specifically the Active Obedience of Christ. (The "passive obedience", aka Penal Substitution, has been sufficiently refuted, but refuting "Active obedience" is so much easier and powerful)

From something I wrote elsewhere:

Sola Fide is the Protestant doctrine that through faith the sinner is formally credited with Christ's Righteousness, this takes place at Justification (where God legally declares the individual to be in good legal standing before Him). This Righteousness consists of two components, popularly termed Christ's "active obedience" and "passive obedience." The "active obedience" consists of Christ's perfect obedience to the Law, while the "passive obedience" consists of Christ's suffering the full punishment due to your sins.

Luther famously referred to this situation as the "Great Exchange," where Christ's perfect obedience to the Law was credited to your sinful account (making your account look as if you had been perfectly obedient), while your sin and guilt was credited to Christ's sinless account (who then received the punishment due, though He was never personally guilty of sin). That's Sola Fide in a nutshell.



I have looked into this issue, and I honestly don’t see any strong Biblical evidence for it*, the only basis for it is an indirect argument (i.e. that Adam needed a ‘positive righteousness’, and thus we do too). To add to this, some of the most powerful texts in regards to justification are (astonishingly) silent on the ‘active’ component, placing all emphasis on the ‘passive’ only. Romans 3:24-26 and 2 Cor 5:21 are some of the big ones I’m thinking of. This issue is simply too serious and too glaring for my mind not to focus on, and I believe this specific issue (’active obedience’) needs to be a serious factor in discussions on justification. The plain fact is, if the ‘active obedience’ concept is not Biblical, then Sola Fide cannot work; and if it is Biblical, then Sola Fide is the only logical option.

* The ’strongest’ Biblical evidence I’ve seen offered is Romans 5:19 (mentioning ‘obedience’). However, this falls short to me for the plain reason that ‘obedience’ need not mean ‘active’, and in fact that must be read into it here – due to the fact this concept is nowhere taught elsewhere in Romans (while ‘passive’ clearly is, esp Rom 3:24 & 5:6-10). On top of that, the two other times ‘obedience’ is mentioned in reference to Christ, clearly only the ‘passive’ sort is in view: Phil 2:8; Heb 5:7f.


I believe that if Catholics focus on this simple issue of Active Obedience, critical for Sola Fide, yet easily refuted, the conversions from Protestantism (esp Calvinism) will occur like crazy.

Randy said...

I don't know if you are likely to get conversions like crazy. First of all, you need to get people to listen. Then you need to get them to open their heart to the possibility that Catholicism could be right. These are the big obstacles. I know they were in my conversion. Once you get somebody listening with an open mind the rest is easy. Catholic teaching makes sense in so many ways.

I am not sure what problem a protestant will see with active obedience that he does not see with passive obedience. Jesus obeyed the law perfectly. The fact that the bible does not explicitly relate that to justification is not such a big deal. If it is a required premise and it is true then you have no issue. The premise does not need to be explicitly stated as a premise in scripture. It just has to be true.

Adomnan said...

Nick,

Good topic. The notion that Christ's righteousness is imputed to anyone (except conceivably to Christ Himself) is utterly lacking in any biblical support.

First, the doctrine is supposed to be set forth by St. Paul, but St. Paul never refers to "Christ's righteousness" at all. It is unlikely that he taught that something he never mentions was imputed to anyone. This "oversight" on Paul's part is especially inexplicable given that Protestants claim that this supposed imputation was the whole essence of Paul's gospel.

Protestants seem to get the idea that Christ's righteousness is "imputed" from Romans 4, the only place in the New Testament where the verb "impute," borrowed by Paul from the OT, is used (in some translations). For example, Paul writes (Rom 4:4): "Now to him who works not (i.e., Abraham), yet puts faith in Him who justifies the gentile (i.e., Abraham again), his faith is imputed as righteousness." Or Rom 4:9:"... we maintain that faith was imputed to Abraham as righteousness." Or Rom 4:22-24: "That is why Abraham's faith was imputed to him as righteousness. Those words 'it was imputed to him' were written not only for Abraham's sake, but for ours too. It is also going to be imputed to us who believe in Him , etc."

Okay, Paul has just said here four times that faith was imputed as righteousness, three times that faith was imputed to Abraham as righteousness and once that faith is imputed to us as righteousness. Remember, these passages in Romans 4 are the ONLY TIMES when the concept of imputation is used in the New Testatment. In every one of these instances, what is imputed as righteousness? Is it "Christ's righteousness?" No! That is never mentioned. Rather, what is imputed as righteousness to Abraham is Abraham's faith, and what is imputed to us as righteousness is our faith.

Thus, the notion of the imputation of Christ's righteousness is directly contradicted by the Bible.

Given what the Bible says, when Protestants claim that Christ's righteousness is imputed to those who are justified, it follows that they must think that 1) our faith is same thing as Christ's righteousness or 2) two things are imputed to us; namely, our faith and a second thing (Christ's righteousness) that Paul never mentions.

1) is absurd, because our faith and Christ's righteousness are two quite different things and cannot be equated. In fact, the proponents of the Protestant view insist that Christ's righteousness is an "alien righteousness;" i.e., something that is not our own. Yet what could be more our own than our faith?

2) is also absurd, because in this case the Protestants would be positing that two separate things were imputed as righteousness, our faith and Christ's righteousness. But the second is never mentioned by Paul, only the first. So there is no biblical support for such a notion.

In short, the so-called "imputation of the righteousness of Christ" not only has no biblical support, but is directly contradicted by the Bible in the only NT passage that speaks of "imputation." The so-called "imputed righteousness of Christ" (whether active or passive) does not exist. It is a fiction.

Now no doubt we'll get reams of Evangelical sophistry arguing that even though Paul never mentions Chrit's righteousness and says that our faith is imputed to us as righteousness, he nevertheless really means that it is not our faith, but rather Christ's righteousness, that is imputed to the justified. You'll also hear the "argument" that the Protestant theory -- although it's never mentioned in the scriptures -- must nevertheless be true and somehow based on the scriptures because it's supposedly more flattering to the Father and/or Jesus and more dismissive of human beings and their efforts. Just watch.

Nick said...

Randy,

I guess I don't mean mass conversions as a whole, but certainly in the Calvinist camp (i.e. the camp that takes systematic theology the most seriously). I agree that they must be open to listen, else we're talking to closed ears.

The problem with 'active obedience' is that the Bible teaches no such thing, where as the Bible clearly teaches 'passive obedience' in the basic sense of 'Christ died for us' (though Calvinists and Lutherans would insist this is in the form of Penal Substitution, which is an unbiblical form of atonement). It is a very big deal that this is never taught, especially in texts speaking of justification, for that leaves the Protestant in a terrible bind: Requiring a doctrine in matters of salvation that is not taught in Scripture. That's a violation of Sola Scriptura by definition.

I think you misunderstood what the 'active obedience' of Christ is. Everyone agrees that Christ obeyed the Law perfectly, that's not the issue. The issue is whether He obeyed the Law perfectly in our place (which is then imputed to us), and such a thing is never taught in Scripture.

This is why classical Protestants have a hard time with the Final Judgment texts, because they base entrance into Heaven based on our deeds (done in grace of course), where as 'active obedience' teaches entrance into Heaven is based on Christ doing those good works in your place. Two irreconcilable 'grounds' by which the judgment is made.


Adomnan,

Yes, but the beauty of the 'active obedience' approach is that it bypasses the whole 'impute' issue, greatly simplifying everything. Yes, it is utterly lacking Biblical support, but taking the approach I propose allow the Catholic to avoid the whole Romans 4 nit-picking (not that it's really nit-picking).

You see, the big name Protestants think they can make a case for imputation of Christ's righteousness in Romans 4. And they've proposed some pretty fancy arguments (though still lacking), for example arguing the meaning of 'impute' and why faith itself isn't what's credited as righteousness. However, with my argument, none of that matters because for the sake of argument we can AGREE that Romans 4 teaches Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer, everything the Protestant proposed. The catch is that the Protestant must prove "Christ's Righteousness" INCLUDES "Christ obeyed the Law in our place," and that cannot be done. This is especially condemning in light of the fact Rom 3:24 and 2 Cor 5:21 (two of the biggest passages Protestants look to for justification) ONLY mention 'passive obedience' at most.

In shrot, if you say "Christ's Righteousness" is an 'oversight' by Paul (which it is, if Protestants are correct), THEN the 'active obedience' issue is an oversight one step before that! A double oversight, if that makes sense! Talk about lacking Biblical evidence for a central doctrine of the Reformation!

Adomnan said...

Nick: And they've proposed some pretty fancy arguments (though still lacking), for example arguing the meaning of 'impute' and why faith itself isn't what's credited as righteousness.

Adomnan: But Romans 4 states that faith IS credited (or "imputed," same thing) as righteousness, in so many words. Just so. "Sophistry" is what I'd call a fancy argument seeking to demonstrate that "faith is credited as righteousness" actually means "faith itself isn't what's credited as righteousness."

I mean, what is this, biblical exegesis or Animal Farm?

Nick: However, with my argument, none of that matters because for the sake of argument we can AGREE that Romans 4 teaches Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer, everything the Protestant proposed.

Adomnan: I don't think you need to go there. One shouldn't even agree with them "for the sake of argument" that Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer, because this is nowhere taught in the Bible and is absurd (no one's rigthouessness can be "imputed" to anyone else). Why concede something that is absurd and unbiblical? If one line of illogical hokum is conceded "for the sake of argument," then any amount of foolishness can follow from that. You'd just be getting yourself all tangled up in their sophistical nonsense.

Rom 3:24 does not, of course, allude to "passive obedience" (the notion that Christ allowed himself to be punished by the Father). Do they say it does because 3:24 mentions "redemption?" (I don't really want to know.) Well, we were not redeemed or ransomed from bondage to the Father, but from bondage to sin. Similarly, 2 Cor 5:21 has nothing to do with any fictional "passive obedience." This verse says JC became a "sin offering" -- that's what hamartia means here, as in Rom 8:3: "peri hamartias" meaning "for the purpose of being a sin offering."

There was no Protestant "passive obedience" in Jesus's life or death at all. Jesus engaged only in active obedience, which was, of course, not imputed to anybody else.

I know you agree with all, or most, of this. I'm just suggesting that you keep it simple and clear when dealing with Protestant fundamentalist heretics. There's no point in entertaining seriously any of their inanities. They're confused enough as it is.

By the way, I thought your debate with Turretinfan about penal substitutionary atonement was really excellent (on your side). Too bad he went away from it just as obstinate, ignorant and spiritually blind as he came.

Grubb said...

Adomnan,

I'm reposting my last comments from the old thread here. I look forward to your reply.

There is a procedure to be followed, the procedure outlined in that passage you cited from Matthew; and that procedure entails leaving judgment and discipline up to the Church authorities.

You keep skipping over steps 1 & 2 of church discipline as described in Matt 18. If someone sins against me, I (not the clergy or church leadership) judge that act to be wrong and go to him to iron it out. If he repents, good. It could even work out that it was a misunderstanding. That would be good too. If it's unresolved, I take a few other Christians to discuss it with him. If it's still unresolved, then Matt 18:17 says, "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." The church "authorities" don't get involved until step 3.

The way you describe it, if someone sins against me, I'd tell the authorities, and they'd send someone out to discuss it with him. If that didn't work, they'd take a couple of other of the church leadership. And if that didn't work, they'd report it to the church. But wait, the church already knows, because they were involved in steps 1 & 2. That doesn't make sense. Plus, do you realize how busy the clergy and deacons would be resolving everyone's problems? That's why steps 1 & 2 are the lay people of the church not the church authorities.

As for approaching someone you see sinning who isn't sinning against you, apply the Golden Rule. If someone saw you sinning and could prevent you from going down a very destructive path, wouldn't you want them to? Wouldn't you want them to try? And wouldn't you rather just your best friend come talk to you rather than him going to the church authorities?

Frankly, I've seen you give at least two examples of bad advice based on your misreading of the scripture. One is that people with no money ought nevertheless to "tithe."

Never said that. I did say, "I know not everyone is spending frivolously, and that's not the people I'm talking about." I also said, "When does Jesus ever lower the bar spiritually?" And Jesus said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matt 23:23) Did Jesus tell the Pharisees not to tithe? No, He said you should do both: tithe & exercise justice, mercy, & faithfulness.

My big gripe isn't against the poor not tithing (that's a whole different issue). My concern is with people who have 15% to put in their IRA and 0% to give to God. And, yes, it would be BETTER (not required) to give 10% to church & 5% to the IRA. That's not referring to the person who can't afford to tithe; that's referring to people who choose to use their money for THEIR gain and not for God's. You skip all the great advice I gave about reducing payments & expenses (so we can give to the church) and address something I didn't even say.

The other is that it is sinful to retire.

Where did I say it was a sin to retire? I did say the notion of retiring and sitting around and doing nothing productive is unbiblical. I asked you to show me where the Bible encourages retirement the way average America does it, but you didn't. Notice in my examples, I never said to give 0% to your IRA. Doesn't sound as though I think retiring is a sin, if I encourage people to put 5% into an IRA. You came down pretty hard on ol' Grubb for misunderstanding and misstating what CrimsonCatholic said. Maybe you should come down pretty hard on yourself for misunderstanding and/or misstating what I've said. : )
.

Grubb said...

A possible third example of bad advice, although you may not be responsible for this, may have led your "flirting" friend to make a big mistake; i.e., to "confess" to his wife an undue interest in another woman that he never acted on.

You're right, I didn't tell him to confess to her; but you can't possibly think it's wrong to see someone sinning and tell them to stop, can you? It's never wrong to tell someone the truth in love. If the consequences are less than desirable, so be it. If I tell a guy he needs to stop having an affair, he agrees and ends it, and the woman shoots & kills him, should I have held my tongue? Not at all. I told him the right thing to do, and he did it. We can't base doing the right thing on what the outcome might be.

My guess is that the wife will brood over this quasi-sin and hold it against your friend forever.

While that may be what unspiritual women would normally do, his wife is a Godly woman who understands we're to forgive & forget as best we can. She isn't holding it against him at all. In a truly Godly marriage, things like this usually make the marriage stronger when true repentance occurs. In I Cor 13, one of the marks of love is that "it keeps no record of wrongs."

One must proceed very carefully whenever one seeks to interfere in other peoples' lives.

Agreed, but not so carefully we're paralyzed to the point of doing nothing. And that's why it's so important to be very close with a group of believers. It's much harder to approach people you don't know well to rebuke/judge them; and it's much harder for them to receive that rebuke from someone they hardly know. Think about your siblings. You can say nearly anything and it wouldn't sever the relationship. We need to have that same kind of closeness with Christian brothers and sisters, so we can speak candidly about sin & repentance without fear of severing the relationship. THAT'S what Christian community is.

While James is saying that we can offer advice to an erring brother, he is not saying that we, as laymen, are authorized to judge or discipline him.

I'm not talking about discipline. That's the church's job. But judging is merely the act of observing a behavior and determining if it's right or wrong and then addressing it with that person. James HAD to be in favor of that, otherwise what he wrote wouldn't have made sense. When Jesus said "for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged" He wasn't talking about discipline or expelling someone from church. That's why it IS ok to judge other people inside the church as Paul encouraged.

My objection to your approach is that you are encroaching on the functions that God has entrusted to the authorities in the Church.

Again, the 1st 2 steps of church discipline are at the layman's level. And my objection to your approach is that you're deferring to the church YOUR responsibility to your brother to help him in his walk with Jesus.


Regarding "righteous acts", here's how it works. For someone who's not a Christian, the acts he considers righteous are "his righteous acts." But God (according to Isaiah) looks at them and sees them as filthy rags, because he's a sinner separated from God and unsanctified. So he sees them as righteous, but God does not. For someone who's a Christian, the acts he considers righteous are "his righteous acts" also. But for the Christian whom Jesus has sanctified, "his righteous acts" are also considered righteous by God, because they're done in concert with Jesus.
.

Adomnan said...

Grubb, our discussion of the issue of judging others has been instructive and worthwhile. However, I don't have much more to add.

I took your initial statement that it was "the job" of Christians to judge other Christians as a usurpation of the authority of the clergy. However, it now appears that what you have in mind is something more like support groups, in which people assist each other spiritually and psychologically. I don't have any issue with that in principle. Of course, there are many pitfalls, but we've discussed those.

Besides, after explaining that I don't like giving people unsolicited advice, I can hardly tell you and your friends what to do!

By the way, I agree with your understanding of what makes acts righteous. On this point, you are in synch with the Catholic Church.

Randy said...

Nick,

I guess I see spirits behind arguments quite a lot. Like you say, the protestant position on justification is not strong logically. But it is strong spiritually. Why is that? Do we need a better method of arguing? I doubt it. We need to break down some spiritual strongholds.

Having said that, I do appreciate your arguments. I know one big thing for me was when I read something by James Akin absolutely destroying "once saved always saved" with a huge number of passages. I was stunned. I didn't think the protestant bible teachers I read were perfect but I never dreamed they could be that wrong. That they could teach something that contradicted scripture so clearly and so frequently. It dealt a serious blow to a stronghold in my heart.

I can see arguments like you and Adomnan are making might effect some people that way. But as far as strategy goes I don't think cleverness helps. They need to see that what should be the big letter E on top of the exegetical eye chart is something that their favorite teachers have gotten wrong.

Just the fact that imputed righteousness is only talked about in one chapter of the New Testament. I think that will shock many.

Nick said...

Adomnan,

I totally hear you as far as the sophistry thing goes. John Piper, though a good man, wrote a book last year (Counted as Righteousness) where he focuses almost exclusively upon Rom 4:4-6 and builds an entire castle off of his preconceived notions of what this or that means. It's a sad sight because it reads into a few verses and then interprets the REST of the NT in light of that (forcing many texts to be distorted).

Rom 3:24 only speaks of Christ's death, so at most it could only refer to 'passive obedience' (keeping in mind the Protestant understanding is Penal Substitution). They don't say it does, I'm saying that is the MOST it could mean, because only Christ's death is in view leading to justification. In otherwords, the Protestant should be shocked to see that Rom 3:24 is only speaking of Christ's death, not 'active obedience'...pretty strange if such a factor is so essential for justification/solafide. My ONLY point in bringing up Rom 3:24 and 2 Cor 5:21 is that they are Protestant favorites...but Protestants don't realize they only speak of Christ's death - without the slightest hint of 'active obedience'. See what I'm saying?

It's important to keep terms in line when discussing this. The terms "passive obedience" and "active obedience" ONLY apply to the Protestant side, as does the term "righteousness of Christ". Those terms are foreign to the Catholic model.


So, here is what the Protestant side looks like:

Passive Obedience: Everything Christ did during His time on earth that relates to suffering the punishment due to the elect.

Active Obedience: Everything Christ did during His time on earth that relates to perfectly keeping the whole law IN PLACE OF the elect keeping the law perfectly.

Righteousness of Christ =
Passive Obedience + Active Obedience

Imputation: Transferring the Righteousness of Christ to the account of the sinner.

NONE of the above 4 concepts are taught in Scripture. All 4 can be easily refuted, though some are easier than others.

My argument regarding active obedience is that looking to major justification texts like Rom 3:24 and 2 Cor 5:21, reading the passages as plainly as possible, AT MOST they could say Passive Obedience is involved. That's bad if Active Obedience is just as essential. And it's not just bad, it's devastating.

CrimsonCatholic said...

@Grubb:
I can't help but wonder if I'm wasting my time, but I'll try to explain the point once again.

If you'll reread my comments, I didn't mention the widow's mite as an example at all, so you shouldn't find it objectionable. Adomnan, maybe you should rip CrimsonCatholic a new one for misquoting and misunderstanding what I said. : ) You jumped all over me for misunderstanding and misquoting him. Fair is fair. :)

Actually, you're saying this because you didn't understand at all what I was saying or why I was saying it. My point is that Christian giving is an expression of love for God, and while that love can even extend to what is imprudent according to the wisdom of the world, if that were required, it would cheapen the effort. Thus, ordinarily Christian giving is a free expression that falls within prudent management of one's resources.

What you are saying, on the other hand, is based on the model of the Mosaic Law, which is a commandment to give a certain amount to God. Hence, you cite passages pertaining to following God's commandments where God speaks to testing Him in giving what He has commanded. Here, you miss the spirit of Christian giving entirely. The entire point is that it is to a large portion very free, precisely so that the sacrificial quality can be voluntary. Hence, for the Christian, the commandment to give to the Church is essentially only what is needed to provide support for the priests, bishops, and deacons and to provide for widows, orphans, and the poor. And that's it. So long as those needs are being provided, there's no magic amount that you have to give to God simply because of what income you have. You can do it if you want to do it, but God isn't asking for it. You just have to collectively make sure that adequate provision is being made for those things that I mentioned.

That's why you have it exactly backwards when you analogize it to the moral commandments of the Law, like those regarding adultery and hatred. The tithing requirement was a ritualistic requirement of the Law, so as in cases like the kosher eating requirements, the Christian is loosened from them rather than being bound. The requirements are actually lessened so that there is more opportunity for the voluntary exercise of charity. It's like fasting, another great spiritual practice but one which is no longer routinely expected. If you have money and you'd rather spend it on Starbucks, then as long as you've met your minimum obligations, it's not wrong for you to do it.

CrimsonCatholic said...

(cont.)
So that fact that you are saying that you should necessarily give some fraction of your income merely as an obligation because you have it entirely misses the point, and that is why I am saying that you are cheapening the spirit of Christian giving. It's your misuse of the example of chairtable Christian giving that I was chastising, of which the widow is simply one case (which is why I said "for example" in the original comment). The entire point is that you DON'T have to give simply because you have it, in contrast with the Jewish Law, so all of the stuff about testing God is completely irrelevant, since it deals with *commanded* giving rather than voluntary giving.

The problem is the standard you're imposing, and that's why I say by taking the practice of Christian giving and judging it by this alien standard from the Mosaic Law, you've cheapened the meaning of Christian giving, as best exemplified by the widow. It's not a "do it, and God will provide for you" kind of deal. That deals with the moral commandments, not with sacrifices, which reap treasure in Heaven but which may or may not have earthly rewards. But the loving Christian gives them without even consideration of those rewards, indeed without worrying or considering such things, but simply as an expression of love with all that he has. Hence, the command to the rich man was a challenge to him, not because selling all of one's possessions is required for every person, but because it is what his love would have demanded of him had he followed it.

I am therefore somewhat vexed because any judgment of giving is necessarily a judgment of the state of someone's heart. Yes, certainly, the more love you have for God, the more you will probably tend to invest your material resources in spiritual work. But giving above the bare minimum is something that is an opportunity rather than an obligation, utterly unlike the universal moral prohibitions you mention, so the judgment you are making of giving strikes me as entirely wrong-headed.

You just aren't getting this. The commandment to give is relatively minimal; the oppotunity to give is what is much greater. Your whole attitude is caught up in the Bible being about a bunch of divine promises of what He will give, and that's just not a healthy attitude for Christian life. That's what the Judaizing Christians did, not St. Paul.

Adomnan said...

Nick: My argument regarding active obedience is that looking to major justification texts like Rom 3:24 and 2 Cor 5:21, reading the passages as plainly as possible, AT MOST they could say Passive Obedience is involved. That's bad if Active Obedience is just as essential. And it's not just bad, it's devastating.

Adomnan: Well, let's take 2 Cor 5:21. The first part says, "He who knew no sin became sin for us." Couldn't the fundamentalist Protestants say that "became sin for us" refers to Christ's passive obedience and "who knew no sin" refers to his active obedience? After all, if he knew no sin, he must have actively and perfectly fulfilled the Law.

And, in fact, "who knew no sin" does indeed refer to what you might call Christ's active obedience. What is to be rejected is the claim that "became sin for us" -- or better, "became a sin offering for us" -- refers to so-called passive obedience.

Therefore, you're willing to "concede" to the Protestants that passsive obedience is in 2 Cor 5:21, while denying that active obedience is there -- while I think the opposite is true.

Re Piper's reliance on Romans 4:4-6: In this passage, Paul does not make the general assertion that God never pays "wages" as due to someone who "works," or that God never "owes" anyone. Not at all. If anything, Paul says the exact opposite. He says that wages ARE due to someone who works.

I might add that the intent of this passage is not really to contrast "one who works" with "one who doesn't work and believes," but rather to specify the meaning in this context of the Greek word translated as "is credited/imputed to." Paul is saying that while this word (logizesthai in Greek) is usually an accounting term and refers to crediting wages, it has a different application in this case.

Abraham had not "worked" -- that is, he had not yet done the first work of the Law (circumcision). Therefore, God could not have credited righteousness to him on the basis of works of the Law. But he could credit righteousness to Abraham on the basis of his faith, and that is what God did.

In this passage, as everywhere in Paul, "works" and "working" refer solely to doing works of the Jewish Law.

By the way, have you had time to think over my thesis that Paul's "works of the Law" refer only to works peculiar to the Law; i.e., ethnic markers like circumcision? It's really a very simple idea, which, once grasped, makes Paul's argument utterly lucid, coherent and tidy. In fact, it's the only understanding of "works/works of the Law" that makes sense.

CrimsonCatholic said...

P.S., realized that I had neglected to address something that I meant to bring up. One other troubling part of Grubb's account is that he seems to be suggesting that the notion of ceasing work "before we need to" is silly and unbiblical. Actually, that concept is FAR older than even the New Testament. Both Greek and Roman culture recognized that the accumulation of property was a good thing so that there could be people, and particularly older people, devoted to contemplation and the intellectual life. Working was something that you had to do, but the ideal was that you did that sort of work as a young man and accumulated land and property so that you could devote your time later in life, when you also would presumably had more wisdom, to good governance of society, etc. And this IS in fact reflected in the Biblical command to honor one's father and mother; that is one expression of reverence for age that they can be allowed to use their wisdom for the greater good. This whole idea of people slaving away at a job their entire lives and that not raising money through labor one's entire life in unhealthy, the so-called "Protestant work ethic," completely neglects the value of contemplative work for society. In fact, Grubb's idea of working so that you can hand over money in the form of a tithe is exactly the attitude of the moneychangers, rather than concern for the spiritual well-being of the community.

Hence, when Grubb says the following...
You still haven't shown me scripture that encourages retirement or a retirement plan. You're putting forth a silly, unbiblical notion that we should be able to quit work long before we need to and have large sums of money in reserve, so we can sit around and enjoy being unproductive (because that's what most do) as a sound, biblical principle. So what if you lose the ability to work long before you are self supporting. Don't you have family you could live with or who would help you? For all of your talk about the communion of saints, you sure don't sound as though you believe in communion of earthly saints.
... I must again vehemently disagree. Allowing the older and wiser among us to devote themselves to contemplation and the resulting philosophical and political development is both the natural order of things under the natural law AND the Biblical rule under the injunction to honor your father and mother. Yes, obviously, people using their retirement as a perpetual vacation rather than study and writing, liberal arts, and/or service to the Church is a misuse of the concept, but they absolutely should have the dignity of being able to spend their later years developing and passing on wisdom rather than having to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow.

Grubb's "Protestant work ethic" is actually a large part of the vast societal sickness, as documented in Josef Pieper's _Leisure_.

Nick said...

Adomnan: And, in fact, "who knew no sin" does indeed refer to what you might call Christ's active obedience.

Nick: That's not accurate. Nobody, Protestant or Catholic, denies Christ lived a life of perfect obedience. The notion of 'active obedience' applies only to whether Christ lived a life of obedience in our place. So the phrase "knew no sin" certainly does mean Christ never sinned (and thus was always obedient), but that in no way implies it was done in our place (i.e. so that a record of 'perfect obedience' could then be imputed to our account). These distinctions are critical for keeping things straight and maintaining the argument.

If a Protestant objects,
"So Catholics don't believe Christ lived a sinless life?"
The Catholic response is,
"On the contrary, Christ did live a sinless life. However, the Bible nowhere says He did this in place of us (and thus to be imputed to us)."


Adomnan: What is to be rejected is the claim that "became sin for us" -- or better, "became a sin offering for us" -- refers to so-called passive obedience.

Nick: Again, another clarification. What is to be rejected is that "became sin" refers to penal substitution.



Adomnan: Abraham had not "worked" -- that is, he had not yet done the first work of the Law (circumcision). Therefore, God could not have credited righteousness to him on the basis of works of the Law. But he could credit righteousness to Abraham on the basis of his faith, and that is what God did.

Nick: Agreed.


Adomnan: By the way, have you had time to think over my thesis that Paul's "works of the Law" refer only to works peculiar to the Law; i.e., ethnic markers like circumcision? It's really a very simple idea, which, once grasped, makes Paul's argument utterly lucid, coherent and tidy. In fact, it's the only understanding of "works/works of the Law" that makes sense.

Nick: I've thought about it, but I still consider it too narrow of a definition (ie simply ethnic markers). The Law was a complete unit, it as a whole was to be kept, not just 'ethnic markers'. One could not choose to only keep certain aspects of the Law while still being under the jurisdiction of the Law. The use of the term "law" (on it's own) is especially hard to limit to 'ethic markers', and in fact refers to the entire Mosaic Law.
Acts 13:39 is what I consider a summary of Paul's entire Jew-Gentile message: The "Law of Moses" cannot save while faith in Christ does.

Adomnan said...

Nick: If a Protestant objects,
"So Catholics don't believe Christ lived a sinless life?"
The Catholic response is,
"On the contrary, Christ did live a sinless life. However, the Bible nowhere says He did this in place of us (and thus to be imputed to us)."

Adomnan: Well, couldn't they say that the second part of the verse, the part that says "we may beome the righteousness of God in Him" refers to the imputation of Christ's righteousness? They would argue that, just as God imputed our guilt to Christ so that he "became sin," so "become the righteousness of God in Him" implies that God imputed Christ's righteousness to us. And then they could say that God didn't only impute Christ's passive righteousness (His "becoming sin") but also His active righteousness ("knowing no sin"), both "in our place" and both mentioned in the same verse.

Adomnan (earlier): What is to be rejected is the claim that "became sin for us" -- or better, "became a sin offering for us" -- refers to so-called passive obedience.

Nick: Again, another clarification. What is to be rejected is that "became sin" refers to penal substitution.

Adomnan: I originally wrote "the so-called passive obedience of penal substitution," but since you were so clear that "passive obedience" referred to penal substitution, I didn't think I had to be that explicit.

Nick: I've thought about it, but I still consider it too narrow of a definition (ie simply ethnic markers). The Law was a complete unit, it as a whole was to be kept, not just 'ethnic markers'.

Adomnan: When Paul refers to "the Law," he means of course the "complete unit." However, when he refers to "works of the Law," he means "works peculiar to the Law, like circumcision; i.e., ethnic markers." You are confusing the Law with works of the Law, as if "the Law" and "the works of the Law" were just two ways of saying the same thing. Not so.

Nick: One could not choose to only keep certain aspects of the Law while still being under the jurisdiction of the Law.

Adomnan: That's true. That is why, if you didn't keep the works of the Law (i.e., the ethnic markers), then you were not under the jurisdiction of the Law. Paul didn't want Gentiles to be under the jurisdiction of the Law.

Nick: The use of the term "law" (on it's own) is especially hard to limit to 'ethic markers', and in fact refers to the entire Mosaic Law.

Adomnan: That is very true. That is why I do not try to limit the use of the term "law" to "ethnic markers." I agree that "the Law" refers to the whole Mosaic Law. I am only limiting the use of the expression "works of the Law" to ethnic markers.

Nick: Acts 13:39 is what I consider a summary of Paul's entire Jew-Gentile message: The "Law of Moses" cannot save while faith in Christ does.

Adomnan: However we might interpret Acts 13:39, it has no bearing on the meaning of "works of the Law" in Paul, because Acts 13:39 doesn't mention "works of the Law," it only speaks of the Law.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adomnan said...

From Wikipedia: The necessity of imputed righteousness stems precisely from there being nothing internal onto which God's grace can be fused. Something altogether more radical must be done to make a sinner righteous; the sinful nature must be killed and replaced by a new nature made by God; "positional sanctification" is achieved through the divine declaration of imputation.

Adomnan: This is completely incoherent. It posits a "positional sanctification," which implies that people are not truly sanctified but are only considered holy because of their "position." Thus, they're making sancitificaltion something like the Protestant "justification." It's "positional" rather than inherent. This is shown, too, by the fact that the author of these sentences says that the "positional sanctification" is achieved through "the divine declaration of imputation." Now, maybe this person goes on to make some distinction between "positional sanctification," which he equates with justification, and "actual sanctification," which is what Paul calls sanctification.

I don't know and I don't care. This kind of wordplay is typical of Protestant sophistry, and I'm not interested in trying to disentangle their sophistry to make sense of it. All of this is utterly lacking in any biblical foundation. There is no "positional sanctification" in he Bible and no imputation of Christ's righteousness. If these so-called "Bible believers" would just stick to the Bible, there'd be no problem!

One more time: The only thing the Bible (in Romans 4) says is imputed to us as righteousness is our faith. It does not say that "Christ's righteousness" is imputed to anybody. Christ was, of course, personally righteous; but Paul never mentions Christ's personal righteousness as such. He talks about "the righteousness of God," something very different from Christ's personal righteousness, and he talks about a righteousness that we can have, but again this is not Christ's personal righteousness. Paul certainly never suggests that Christ's righteousness is something like a commodity or a credit that can be detached from Christ and "imputed" to other people's "accounts." The whole idea is ludicrous.

Nick said...

Adomnan: Well, couldn't they say that the second part of the verse, the part that says "we may beome the righteousness of God in Him" refers to the imputation of Christ's righteousness? They would argue that, just as God imputed our guilt to Christ so that he "became sin," so "become the righteousness of God in Him" implies that God imputed Christ's righteousness to us.

Nick: They do in fact argue this, but the response is that "Christ's Righteousness" only corresponds to his passive obedience (ie "made sin"). The burden is on them to prove there is more to it than that.

Adomnan: And then they could say that God didn't only impute Christ's passive righteousness (His "becoming sin") but also His active righteousness ("knowing no sin"), both "in our place" and both mentioned in the same verse.

Nick: What I've learned here is that the Protestant could pretty much insist and read whatever they wanted out of this passage, regardless of it's validity. To say active obedience corresponds to "knowing no sin" is quite a feat to demonstrate exegetically.


Adomnan: When Paul refers to "the Law," he means of course the "complete unit." However, when he refers to "works of the Law," he means "works peculiar to the Law, like circumcision; i.e., ethnic markers." You are confusing the Law with works of the Law, as if "the Law" and "the works of the Law" were just two ways of saying the same thing. Not so.

Nick: I wouldn't consider myself confusing/conflating the two. The WoL don't save because the Law itself doesn't save (Rom 4:13-15). Gal 3:10-12 speaks of the two as if they were one. Paul says we are not justified by the law nor justified by works of the law, so he must be speaking of the same thing.


Adomnan: That's true. That is why, if you didn't keep the works of the Law (i.e., the ethnic markers), then you were not under the jurisdiction of the Law. Paul didn't want Gentiles to be under the jurisdiction of the Law.

Nick: Correct. Paul didn't want them being under Mosaic jurisdiction, not just avoiding ethic markers. The Old Covenant was fulfilled and over with, so it was apostasy to enter into (or at least try to) that Old Covenant as a Christian. Acts 21:17-26 shows Jewish-Christians still observed Mosaic rituals, so they were not bad in themselves, only

Adomnan: However we might interpret Acts 13:39, it has no bearing on the meaning of "works of the Law" in Paul, because Acts 13:39 doesn't mention "works of the Law," it only speaks of the Law.

Nick: It has to have bearing, because Paul preaches the same thing wherever he goes. Paul preaches 'against' the Mosaic Law as a whole, thus 'works of the Law' are a subset of that message against the Law as a whole.

Adomnan said...

Nick: What I've learned here is that the Protestant could pretty much insist and read whatever they wanted out of this passage, regardless of it's validity.

Adomnan: That's right! And that's why I advise you against using any kind of subtlety to refute Protestantism. Don't concede anything that isn't true. "Passive obedience," understood as Jesus accepting penal substitution, is a lie. So don't concede it, even for the sake of argument.

If passive obedience, which isn't there, can nevertheless be read into 2 Cor 5:21, then anything that isn't there could be read into it.

Nick: To say active obedience corresponds to "knowing no sin" is quite a feat to demonstrate exegetically.

Adomnan: But they don't have to demonstrate it, they can just assert it. They can just say, "That's how I interpret the verse, and I'm sure the Holy Spirit has led me to interpret it correctly."

After all, "knowing no sin" is really not that far from obeying the Law perfectly, which is how they understand "active obedience."

The only way that you can effectively counter a false Protestant reading of 2 Cor 5:21 is by providing the correct interpretation, which has nothing to do with an imputation of any kind.

Nick: I wouldn't consider myself confusing/conflating the two. The WoL don't save because the Law itself doesn't save (Rom 4:13-15).

Adomnan: True. And the works of the New Law (e.g., baptism) do save because the New Law ("the Law of Christ," as Paul calls it in Gal 6:2) saves.

Nick: Gal 3:10-12 speaks of the two as if they were one.

Adomnan: You can only be under the Law if you do the works of the Law (e.g., the works peculiar to the Law like circumcision); but that does not in any way imply that these works of the Law are anything other than the ethnic markers that mark Jews off from Gentiles and make them a separate people who are "under the Law." In the same way, we are "under Jesus Christ" because we have been baptized into His name. Baptism is a work peculiar to us Christians that separates us from the unbaptized. It doesn't follow from this that the law of Christ and baptism are the same thing.

Nick: Correct. Paul didn't want them being under Mosaic jurisdiction, not just avoiding ethic markers.

Adomnan: Obviously they wouldn't be under Mosaic jurisdiction if they avoided the ethnic markers.

Nick: The Old Covenant was fulfilled and over with, so it was apostasy to enter into (or at least try to) that Old Covenant as a Christian.

Adomnan: As a Gentile Christian, true. But this has no bearing on whether "works of the Law" refer to "ethnic markers," as I insist, or if the expression refers to "everything the Law commands" (including love, hope, good works, observing moral commands and, well, even faith, I guess), as you seem to be insisting.

If "works of the Law" doesn't mean "works peculiar to the Jewish Law like circumcision," then what does the phrase mean? What does it mean precisely?

Nick: Paul preaches 'against' the Mosaic Law as a whole, thus 'works of the Law' are a subset of that message against the Law as a whole.

Adomnan: Good. Maybe we're getting somewhere. If "works of the Law" are a "subset" of Paul's message and not the whole Law, then it sounds like they might be something like -- don't hold your breath -- ethnic markers!

Nick, the point of my trying to convince you that works of the Law are only ethnic markers is not to undermine your larger point that Paul was setting aside the Jewish Law. Rather, it's to undermine the whole "works righteousness" argument of the heretics. If "works" and "works of the Law" are always and everywhere just Jewish ethnic markers for Paul, then it is obvious that Paul was not trying to counter the idea that good works or moral effort can justify, as the Protestants believe.

Paul's writings will always be somewhat unclear until his discourse about "works" and "works of the Law" is understood.

Adomnan said...

Nick,

Do you think my point about "works of the Law" might be easier to accept if I called them "Jewish sacraments and observances" rather than "ethnic markers"? Maybe "ethnic markers" strikes you as too sociological?

Grubb said...

Hey guys,

Sorry I got so busy Friday & Monday, but I'm finally responding. Ben, I'm still working on my response to your comments early last week.

CrimsonCatholic,

If you think I'm suggesting 10% is a rule, then you haven't read all my comments. That notwithstanding, 10% is a good guideline or starting point. Work your way up or down as income and circumstances dictate. If it was a good RULE for Jews (and we know it was good, because God gave it), then it's a good GUIDELINE or starting point for Christians.

(For this whole conversation, I'm assuming someone makes $60,000/year which is $5,000/month which probably nets to $3,800/month.)

Thus, ordinarily Christian giving is a free expression that falls within prudent management of one's resources.

This may be the biggest problem in our discussion. What is "prudent management of one's resources"? For someone who nets around $3,800/month, is it prudent to spend $1500 on a house, $800 on 2 cars, $500 into a retirement fund, and $200 on clothes every month and give $100 to the church? So you spend $3,700 on yourself all month and give $100 to God. Even if the church only needed $100 from each family to sustain itself, would $3.7k to me and .1k to God seem prudent? But sadly, the average American (including Christians) only give about 2% to charities/church.

What are one's priorities? THAT will determine how he spends his money to a large degree. If you LOVE football, you're going to spend time & money on football. How many people spend $150+ a month on HD Cable, so they can have the NFL channel, ESPN, and more? Millions. If you love fishing, you'll spend $2000 on a boat or $100s on fishing poles & gear. The same is true of camping; people spend 100s if not 1000s for camping stuff. And if you LOVE the poor, you'll spend time & money to help them. If you LOVE expanding God's kingdom, you'll give money towards missionaries and spend time evangelizing as well.

It's very hard to convince someone you love something when you're spending all your time & money on something else, wouldn't you agree? If I saw that you spend $2,000 on football season tickets, I would rightfully say, "Wow, you love football, don't you?" Similarly, if I saw you spend $2,000 on feeding homeless people, I'd rightfully say, "Wow, you really love helping homeless people, don't you?"

Hence, you cite passages pertaining to following God's commandments where God speaks to testing Him in giving what He has commanded.

Jesus encouraged the Pharisees to continue giving 10% but also to help the poor (Matt 23:23); Grubb encourages people to give 10% and to help the poor. Do you really want to claim Grubb is saying the wrong thing when I'm saying the same thing Jesus did? It's your reputation, but it seems like a bad idea to me. : )

So long as those needs [the needs of the church, bishops, priests, widows & orphans] are being provided, there's no magic amount that you have to give to God simply because of what income you have.

That's true, but what did Jesus say about those whom had been given more? "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48b) This doesn't refer only to money, but it definitely applies to money. Do you think God really entrusts someone with millions of dollars and expects him to give only the $100 necessary to support his local church? That's ridiculous.

You can do it if you want to do it, but God isn't asking for it. You just have to collectively make sure that adequate provision is being made for those things that I mentioned.

If you put $500k in an IRA at the beginning of the year, would you be pleased with a $1,200 return on your money at the end of the year? That's a .24% return. I bet you'd pull your money out at the end of the year and put it someplace else.
.

Grubb said...

When God gives someone $500k, do you really think He's pleased when that guy gives the bare minimum to support the church? People think the money they have is theirs, but it's not. It's God's. He entrusts it to us with the desire that we use it to further His kingdom. You entrust your money to money managers when you put it in a 401(k). How pleased would you be if they spent 99% of it and left you with 1%? You'd say, "Hey, that wasn't your money. I just gave it to you to invest and to further my goal." Does God say the same to us when he sees us spending 99% on us and 1% on Him?

And so you don't make another false claim about my intentions, there's a difference between a millionaire giving 1% and a guy who makes minimum wage giving 1%. God is very pleased with the minimum wage guy, probably not so much with the millionaire.

The tithing requirement was a ritualistic requirement of the Law, so as in cases like the kosher eating requirements, the Christian is loosened from them rather than being bound.

I agree we're not bound by the tithe; I've maintained that all along. But didn't Jesus encourage the Pharisees to continue tithing? And if He encouraged it, shouldn't we? I'm not saying make it mandatory, but rather encourage it as the starting point.

The entire point is that you DON'T have to give simply because you have it, in contrast with the Jewish Law, so all of the stuff about testing God is completely irrelevant, since it deals with *commanded* giving rather than voluntary giving.

Here's a command that Jesus DID give, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." How do you store up treasure in heaven? By spending all but $100 on yourself or by giving generously to the church and those in need? Right after that He said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." You keep espousing the bare minimum, and I keep espousing giving generously (not legalistically, that's been your interpretation of what I've said); which of us do you think is aligning more with Jesus' words?

I am therefore somewhat vexed because any judgment of giving is necessarily a judgment of the state of someone's heart.

THAT'S RIGHT!! But it's not a judgment from Grubb; it's a judgment from God who knows the heart. I'm merely trying to encourage people to give more than the bare minimum or nothing at all to help them avoid a hard judgment from God.

Yes, certainly, the more love you have for God, the more you will probably tend to invest your material resources in spiritual work.

If you had left out the word "probably", your sentence would have been right on the money (pun intended). : )

You just aren't getting this. The commandment to give is relatively minimal

But the commandment to love is monumental. You're trying to separate the giving from the loving. As you pointed out, the more you love, the more you'll give. I believe this to be true, and I'm not talking about money only.

You seem to think I believe (simply because I referenced the OT passages) that if we give, God will give us more; but that's not what I believe. While He may bless us monetarily in this life time when we're generous, there's no guarantee of that, nor should there be any expectation on our part.
.

Grubb said...

Both Greek and Roman culture recognized that the accumulation of property was a good thing so that there could be people, and particularly older people, devoted to contemplation and the intellectual life.

But Greek & Roman cultures didn't necessarily reflect Biblical principles did they? I'm pretty sure the practice of crucifixion isn't supported by the Bible, but it was part of the Roman culture.

And this IS in fact reflected in the Biblical command to honor one's father and mother; that is one expression of reverence for age that they can be allowed to use their wisdom for the greater good.

Even if that's what's meant by "Honor your father & mother", how are your kids honoring you in your old age if you're completely self sufficient? Wouldn't they honor you more by letting you live with them when you're done working? THAT'S what was done in earlier times.

This whole idea of people slaving away at a job their entire lives and that not raising money through labor one's entire life in unhealthy, the so-called "Protestant work ethic," completely neglects the value of contemplative work for society.

There's 2 fallacies there: 1) That I have implied people should slave away their whole life. I even said it would be better to give 10% to church and 5% to an IRA. There's nothing wrong with having some money saved up to make the "golden" years easier. Nobody wants to be doing hard labor or working full-time at 65 or 70. But doing something constructive (which may include community service, church service, or working at Chick-Fil-A) is wise. Working part-time at a place tons of kids work at is a brilliant way to pass wisdom on to the next generation. 2) That the average American who retires does so in order to be contemplative for the good of society. There are exceptions, but the average American retires, so he can sit around and do nothing.

Plus, you've ignored all along that you're already forced to put money into a retirement plan, Social Security. SS may not sustain you to live the high life, but it would certainly make your golden years comfortable if you lived with your kids or had an easy, fulfilling, part-time job somewhere.

Grubb's idea of working so that you can hand over money in the form of a tithe is exactly the attitude of the moneychangers

Were the money changers interested in God's kingdom? Were the moneychangers interested in the hearts of the giver? Were the money changers interested in storing up treasure in heaven not on earth? Grubb's idea of giving in no way resembles the money changers.

Grubb: "You're putting forth a silly, unbiblical notion that we should be able to quit work long before we need to and have large sums of money in reserve, so we can sit around and enjoy being unproductive (because that's what most do) as a sound, biblical principle."

CrimsonCatholic: I must again vehemently disagree. ... Yes, obviously, people using their retirement as a perpetual vacation rather than study and writing, liberal arts, and/or service to the Church is a misuse of the concept

You vehemently disagreed with me, and then you turned around and agreed with me. : )
.

Grubb said...

Adomnan,

That was a very kind comment. I appreciate it and am glad to end the conversation on a pleasant note.

Grubb, our discussion of the issue of judging others has been instructive and worthwhile. However, I don't have much more to add.

I agree on both accounts.

Besides, after explaining that I don't like giving people unsolicited advice, I can hardly tell you and your friends what to do!

That made me laugh. : )

My only point of contention is that I think Christian community is a little more compelling than support groups that you can take or leave if you want. I think to be outside of that kind of community is dangerous and to be inside is very helpful and joyful.

By the way, I agree with your understanding of what makes acts righteous. On this point, you are in synch with the Catholic Church.

I'm glad we agree. : )
.

CrimsonCatholic said...

While He may bless us monetarily in this life time when we're generous, there's no guarantee of that, nor should there be any expectation on our part.

That's why I'd like to wind back to my objection to your original hypothetical. You are talking about someone who is 10 years from what would normally be considered retirement, but he has not adequately made provision for that time period (who knows why, but there he is), so he is considering taking money that he might have given to the church in other circumstances to invest in his retirement. I would not look at that man and say "he loves his 401(k) more than God." I would look at that man and say that he is reasonably making provision in a time in his life when he should probably be making the transition to more intellectual pursuits, like thinking, teaching, and sharing wisdom, because he can't work forever and his greater experience gives him more value as a teacher than as a worker. While this life isn't everything, it's a gift from God, and planning for life is honoring that gift.

If he's doing it not to make himself of more service to the community, but rather to enjoy a permanent state of vacation, then my opinion would be different.

If he's not making other sacrifices now that would permit him to make those contributions to the poor or to the church, then my opinion would be different.

But that's what I mean by legalism. To me, it's just common sense that this guy doesn't have an obligation to contribute beyond the needs of the church given his situation at this moment. To presume that God will provide for Him when God has already given the resources to do so and has not demanded otherwise would be presumptuous.

What offended me in your original hypothetical was the suggestion that the man should trust in God to provide, which I view as incorrect. That is certainly not to say that the man is not free to give to the point of hardship, but God is not demanding it, and accordingly, it would be presumptuous to expect God's generosity when God has made no promise to that effect. He has promised that if we give in response to a requirement from Him that He will provide for us, even saying that we should test Him in this regard. But that is not the case here.

I just keep hearing a lot about people being encouraged to "sacrificial giving" with confidence that "God will provide," and that sort of talk just exasperates me. You're not supposed to *worry* needlessly, but you're also expected to manage what you have received wisely as well. There may be times that call for sacrifice, but sacrificial giving is not the default setting for life. The default setting is that you provide for yourself and for your own family in a reasonable way, and you manage what you receive beyond that in a way that is conscious of your possessions being a gift from God for His use, not your own.

What you seem to be saying is that God is telling this guy NOT to invest his remaining money in retirement, and I can't imagine what reason He would have for saying that. God is not anti-retirement, and God does not demand that you give a fraction of your income at all times.

Grubb said...

Ben M.,

At long last my friend, a reply to your comments. : ) Thanks for your patience.

Well now, no offense brother Grubb, but who’s ever heard of your “church?” Where is it mentioned in the Bible? What are its beliefs, its doctrines?

While you share the same sentiment as CrimsonCatholic, your comment is more kindly than his "pseudo church" comment which is why I'm not giving you "Yawn" #2. : )

The short answer is, "It's mentioned all throughout the New Testament." It's also mentioned in the Apostle's Creed as the "one holy catholic and apostolic church." The one holy catholic and apostolic church consists of all believers not simply those who hear via the RCC.

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30) We see from this that any who hear the gospel and accept it are saved and are part of the holy catholic (not Roman Catholic but holy catholic) and apostolic church.

How does it differ from every other “Bible church” which has sprung up alongside the One True Church in every century from the time of the Apostles?

The church I attend is part of the "One True Church," because the one true church has always consisted of all true believers even if they never heard of the RCC. Even Dave has said that it's possible to become a true believer using the Bible alone, so churches like mine MUST have the ability to produce true followers of Jesus even in the RCC's eyes.

'First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world.'

Here we see Paul commending the body of believers in Rome, not the RCC as it exists today.

Listen to Christ giving it from the gospel. Throughout all nations, he says, beginning from Jerusalem. Any sign of you, there?

Yes, since my church is a part of the one true church, we're a part of the one true church that stood in the 1st century.
.

Adomnan said...

Crimson Catholic: Both Greek and Roman culture recognized that the accumulation of property was a good thing so that there could be people, and particularly older people, devoted to contemplation and the intellectual life.

Grubb: But Greek & Roman cultures didn't necessarily reflect Biblical principles did they?

Adomnan: Jesus agreed with Greek and Roman culture on this one, Grubb. We see this in the story about Martha and Mary from Luke's Gospel (Luke 10:38-42):

"In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord's feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha, who was distracted with all the serving, came to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me." But the Lord answered, 'Martha, Martha,' he said, 'you are careful and troubled about many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part, and it is not to be taken from her."

You may think that the Bible instructs retired people to get a job and flip burgers or something, but Jesus disagrees. He endorses the idea that leisure spent in study and contemplation is the "better part;" it beats busyness. The truly contemplative life is higher and "better" than the active life, Jesus says.

That's the point of this episode in Luke. It's not just an anecdote lacking general application. It's a lesson for every life. At the very least, it's a command to you Marthas to leave us Marys alone.

Grubb said...

Are you in communion with that Church which is spread throughout all nations, beginning from Jerusalem? If you are in communion with it, then you are there, you’re in the vine, you haven’t been cut off; it, you see, is the vine, which has grown and filled the whole wide world, the body of Christ, the Church of Christ, whose head is in heaven.

That's correct. My church is a part of that vine. As we have been grafted into the body as true believers, we are part of the world-wide church regardless of whether we are physically in communion with them or not. And since my church is right near a seminary, we actually are in communion with many other nations through the missionaries we send out. : )

But if you are only in communion with Africans, and from Africa send people where you can to provide comfort for you emigrants, then don’t you find that you have remained in a part only, and been cut of from the whole?”

Not at all. Does the hand feel cut off from the foot, because it only connects to the wrist? That's absurd. Are the ears "cut off from the whole," because they only connect to the head? Not at all. They're connected to the foot, because they're connected to the body.

I had planned to say more, but this should be a good starting point. No doubt you'll have a reply. : )

Regarding Grubb's holiness:

And that’s wonderful indeed to hear! God bless you! But still, I must ask: would you have received said blessings and forgiveness had you failed to do your part (keeping the law i.e., the commandments, for example)?

This is a Free Will vs. Predestination question. The answer is, I must do my part, but it's not my part that has saved me.

So you agree that Grace is God’s perfect holiness that flows into us, as opposed to something merely “covering” us, but effecting no real inner change or purification?

II Cor 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" So yes, we are changed & purified.

But then, if our good works are in actuality, His good works, does it not then follow that they must also be meritorious?

Yes, they are meritorious. Our good works are how we store up treasure in heaven.
.

Nick said...

Adomnan,

I think the phrase "ethnic markers" is too sociological for my taste, and one the reasons I hesitate to use it. There are some Protestant scholars who make them out to be a 'membership card' but stripped of any divine significance. The truth is (and you agree), membership in the Mosaic Covenant was a divine blessing and carried divine gifts as well as curses. Paul's point is that these divine gifts that covenant promised were temporal (eg land, long life, etc) rather than eternal.

With circumcision, one was formally a member of God's people (a thing of divine significance, something which the sociological 'ethnic markers' terminology cannot grasp) - and with that came full subscription to the Law of Moses, under it's jurisdiction. Under that jurisdiction, you were bound to keep all rules and regulations, not just 'ceremonial' stuff, but most specifically the moral things, epitomized in the Ten Commandments.

To break the Ten Commandments under Mosaic jurisdiction made one liable to mosaic punishments (either sacrifices or even death penalty). Christians are outside this jurisdiction and under that of Christ. This is also why we don't observe the 4th Commandment which is the Sabbath and it's regulations, because we are not under Mosaic jurisdiction. The Sabbatarians (eg Seventh Day Adventists) get this part wrong.

Further, the Mosaic Law was imperfect (Mk 10:2-12 conclusively proves this), and also was only a means to an end (Christ), not an end in itself (the Judaizer heresy). It was a temporary interlude between Abraham and Christ.


I think this question will get to the heart of the issue:

Question: Why does getting circumcised alienate one from Christ as Paul warns in Gal 5:2-4?

My answer: It's not for any sociological reasons (i.e. 'you're black so you can't eat at a white table'), or even 'works righteousness' reasons, but because it is a denial that Christ came (and thus ended the Old Covenant). It's saying I subscribe to an abolished covenant which my faith in Christ teaches was abolished. Basically, it's an apostasy.

Nick said...

I should clarify my last paragraph. There are sociological aspects to the Mosaic Law, so I shouldn't have said "not for any sociological reasons." I believe a sola-gratia (grace alone) type racism was the error of the Judaizers, esp in Rom 2:17-3:8.
The Judaizers considered themseves divinely elected to be born Jews and were looking down on the Gentiles as inferior 'cursed' race.

Adomnan said...

Nick, This whole exchange is fascinating to me, if somewhat frustrating. I am trying to get you to focus on one issue -- one issue only -- and that is, "What are the works of the Law?"

And yet I just can't seem to get you and me on the same wavelength, no matter how simple and clear and straightforward I try to be. You keep changing the subject from the definition of "works of the Law" to Paul's insistence that the resurrection of Christ made the Mosaic Law obsolete. I agree with this latter point. It is not a point of contention between us. What IS a point of contention is whether the works of the Law refer to peculiarly Jewish (Mosaic) rites and observances, as I maintain, or whether the phrase has some larger meaning, which you seem to maintain.

Now, maybe you don't care about this question. But how could you not care? We both want to understand Paul, and Paul uses works/works of Law frequently in his writings. Shouldn't we want to understand what he means by that?

So let's focus on that question. Okay?

Nick: Under (the) jurisdiction (of the Law of Moses), you were bound to keep all rules and regulations, not just 'ceremonial' stuff, but most specifically the moral things, epitomized in the Ten Commandments.

Adomnan: Okay. Then are you saying that the Ten Commandments, or obeying them, are "works of the Law?"

Nick: Christians are outside this jurisdiction and under that of Christ. This is also why we don't observe the 4th Commandment which is the Sabbath and it's regulations, because we are not under Mosaic jurisdiction.

Adomnan: Okay. I'll grant you that the commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy is a work of the Law. (It's a peculiarly Jewish observance.) But what about the other 9? Are they works of the Law, too?

Nick: I think this question will get to the heart of the issue:
Question: Why does getting circumcised alienate one from Christ as Paul warns in Gal 5:2-4?

Adomnan: How does this get to the heart of the issue? The "issue" for me is, "What are the works of the Law?" You give one work of the Law here (albeit the most crucial work of the Law: circumcision), and then you explain (correctly, in my opinion) why this work of the Law can alienate one from Christ.

Am I to assume then that you now agree that works of the Law refer only to circumcision and other specifically Jewish rites and observances? Again, that is the issue for me.

Nick said...

Q: What are works of the Law?

A: Circumcision plus any command given in the Torah.

Gal3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them."

With circumcision, you're legally bound to obey "all the things written in the Book of the Law" in order to avoid the curse.


A: What IS a point of contention is whether the works of the Law refer to peculiarly Jewish (Mosaic) rites and observances, as I maintain, or whether the phrase has some larger meaning, which you seem to maintain.

N: I do maintain that it has a larger meaning.

A: Shouldn't we want to understand what he means by that?

N: I do care what he means, and that's because you're right, it is key to understanding Paul's argument.

A: So let's focus on that question. Okay?

N: I've tried to. Sorry if you feel I've gone off track, I just think Paul's message is more "spiritual" than merely objecting to rituals and dietary laws.

A: Okay. Then are you saying that the Ten Commandments, or obeying them, are "works of the Law?"

N: Yes, I am saying that. Any act commanded by the Torah and done under its jurisdiction is a Work of the Law.
It's impossible to limit it to circumcision, because circumcision isn't a stand alone act. It's a formal entrance into the Old Covenant and a subscription to obeying the whole Mosaic Law. Same thing with ceremonies and other rites, they are meaningless divorced from the Torah as a whole.

A: Okay. I'll grant you that the commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy is a work of the Law. (It's a peculiarly Jewish observance.) But what about the other 9? Are they works of the Law, too?

N: Yes, they are. The 4th Commandment can't just be ripped out from the other 9.

A: How does this get to the heart of the issue?

N: Because it determines whether one is being alienated from Christ on a spiritual level or merely a social one. If circumcision enters one into the Mosaic Covenant, and one goes through with it, they've repudiated the Christian Covenant. If circumcision is merely social, no different than a dress code, then the Christian covenant is based on external features, not spiritual ones.

A: The "issue" for me is, "What are the works of the Law?" You give one work of the Law here (albeit the most crucial work of the Law: circumcision), and then you explain (correctly, in my opinion) why this work of the Law can alienate one from Christ.

N: If you agree why that work of the Law alienates, then you agree that Paul's main contention is the Old Covenant versus the New, one jurisdiction versus another, not about ceremonies and rites which are inherently neutral.

A: Am I to assume then that you now agree that works of the Law refer only to circumcision and other specifically Jewish rites and observances? Again, that is the issue for me.

N: As clarified above, my definition goes beyond Jewish rites. Paul's focus when contending with the Judaizers is addressing the role of the Mosaic Law/Covenant in salvation history, how it's served it's temporary purpose, and is now obsolete.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grubb said...

CrimsonCatholic,

If he's doing it not to make himself of more service to the community, but rather to enjoy a permanent state of vacation, then my opinion would be different.

If he's not making other sacrifices now that would permit him to make those contributions to the poor or to the church, then my opinion would be different.


Initially you didn't acknowledge what you did right here, and these are the situations I was speaking against. I think an extremely large portion of Americans that retire (90%+) violate your first caveat, and a large portion violate the second as well.

What offended me in your original hypothetical was the suggestion that the man should trust in God to provide, which I view as incorrect.

You may want to rethink it before you encourage someone not to trust God to provide. Here's what Jesus said about it, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matt 6:25-33)

It sounds as though the one stronger in faith is the one who doesn't store up treasures on earth and do trust God to provide even when they're old and unable to work. And this is the passage he spoke immediately after telling people to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. (Matt 6:19-24) Sounds like Jesus was a pretty big fan of trusting God for everything. David says time after time in the Psalms that he trusted God for everything.
.

Grubb said...

it would be presumptuous to expect God's generosity when God has made no promise to that effect.

But He DID promise to provide what we need. Matt 6 showed us that as well as Phil 4:18-19, "I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

I just keep hearing a lot about people being encouraged to "sacrificial giving" with confidence that "God will provide," and that sort of talk just exasperates me.

When a principle espoused in the Bible "exasperates" us, guess who needs to change. Not the Bible or its principles. : )

God is not anti-retirement...

But we agree He's anti-permanent vacation, right? And that's what most do. I don't consider it wrong to quit my 40 hour/week job and start an X hours/week "job" in which I help others, grow in wisdom, or take an easier position. That's why I never said to give 0% to an IRA.

...God does not demand that you give a fraction of your income at all times.

God did demand a fraction of income in the OT and He DID encourage that same fraction in the NT. Do you disagree? In case you think of saying "Yes," here's Jesus' statement, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matt 23:23) And wouldn't you agree that something Jesus directly encouraged should be given serious consideration, and not just swept under the rug in favor of the bare minimum?
.

Grubb said...

Adomnan,

You may think that the Bible instructs retired people to get a job and flip burgers or something, but Jesus disagrees. He endorses the idea that leisure spent in study and contemplation is the "better part;" it beats busyness. The truly contemplative life is higher and "better" than the active life, Jesus says.

Are working and study & contemplation mutually exclusive? Not at all. If someone worked part-time to supplement their social security, they would only need to work 4 hours a day...maybe less. That leaves 12 hours of free time. Assuming the retired person takes 4 hours to eat and do any house work that needs to be done, that leaves 8 hours to be contemplative and focus on the "higher and 'better'" part. Eight hours a day isn't enough? Dude, 64 hours a week (8 hours 5 days a week + 12 hours 2 days) of studying & being contemplative is a boat load. As I said to CrimsonCatholic, the overwhelming majority of Americans don't retire for the higher & better part; they retire, because they're sick of working and want to take it easy.

But what did the Apostle Paul say about that? "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busy bodies." Sadly that describes most people who retire. Most do not retire for contemplative, constructive reasons. Those who do are pursuing a righteous path and are, in a sense, working. So you can see that I'm not against a "retirement" that glorifies God, but quitting work for a permanent "vacation" is not honoring God; it's walking in idleness. Wouldn't you agree?

From what you've said, it sounds as though you agree we shouldn't retire as a permanent vacation to sit around and do nothing constructive. Is that right?
.

Adomnan said...

Grubb: Are working and study & contemplation mutually exclusive? Not at all.

Adomnan: Apparently they were in Martha and Mary's case. Martha did all the work, and Mary did all the study and contemplation.

But your observation here is beside the point. In this episode, Jesus is giving study and contemplation a higher value than work ("the better part"). Of course, in any given life, the balance between work and contemplation can vary. However, by valuing contemplation over work, Jesus is:

a) endorsing a life devoted entirely to contemplation (for some people). After all, since contemplation is the better part, no would could object to someone spending all their time on the better part, whereas spending all their time on the worse part (i.e., work) would be objectionable.

b) removing any possible criticism of retired people who devote themselves to study and contemplation, eschewing all "work." After all, such people have already spend most of their lives on the worse part, and so who could object to them spending what's left exclusively on the better part (i.e., a studious and contemplative leisure)?

Grubb: Eight hours a day isn't enough?

Adomnan: Who are you to tell people how much of their time they should spend on the better part? Jesus didn't tell Mary, "Get up and help your sister for a while and then you can ccme back and listen to me." He told Martha to get off her back. So, how about it, Martha?

Grubb: As I said to CrimsonCatholic, the overwhelming majority of Americans don't retire for the higher & better part; they retire, because they're sick of working and want to take it easy.

Adomnan: Well, then, you should be advising them to spend more of their time on the better part instead of on the worse part (work).

Grubb, quoting Paul: "if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."

Adomnan: These were obviously people who were living off of the Christian community, as shown by the fact that, without charity, they would not eat at all. Retirees don't have to work to eat, and they don't live off charity They live off of their well-deserved pensions. So Paul's rule doesn't apply to them. It only applies to people who would stop eating if they stopped working.

Grubb: So you can see that I'm not against a "retirement" that glorifies God, but quitting work for a permanent "vacation" is not honoring God; it's walking in idleness. Wouldn't you agree?

Adomnan: No. I think that people can learn a lot on vacations. A life of study and contemplation can also be a permanent vacation. No contradiction there.

Your complaint seems to be that many Americans live empty and pointless lives, that they just stagnate, failing to grow in wisdom. If true (and I'm less judgmental than you, so I try to avoid passing this sort of judgement on others' lives), it's every bit as true of Americans who are working as it is of retired Americans. "Work" does not give a meaningless life meaning, especially if it's flipping burgers.

Grubb: From what you've said, it sounds as though you agree we shouldn't retire as a permanent vacation to sit around and do nothing constructive. Is that right?

Adomnan: People who sit at the feet of the Lord cannot help but be constructive, whether they're sometimes busy like Martha or not.

CrimsonCatholic said...

When a principle espoused in the Bible "exasperates" us, guess who needs to change. Not the Bible or its principles.

No, what exasperates me is the suggestion that everything the Bible says is written for them personally. When I spoke of not worrying, I had the very quote you cited from Matthew in mind. But not everyone is told to sell all they have or to take nothing but a cloak with them. Those were commands to specific people at specific times for specific reasons. It's trying to stretch the Bible to be about ME at all times that I find exasperating. I know it's hard to believe, but not every passage of Scripture was written for every Christian. Some of it is to teach you about other people's roles in the Church. It's people not getting this idea that some people are called to different things or have different gifts. While no one should be anxious and while the example of people with extraordinary calls reinforces that belief, not everyone has that extraordinary call, and we are expected to take care of ourselves to the extent God has given us ability to do it as well. The "principle" you cite is only general to a certain extent, and extending it beyond what Scripture says is ... well ... adding to Scripture, even if you pretend it's merely following it.

In any case, I'm weary of this conversation. With all of the 90+% caveats and all that, you didn't actually address the point that you were judging the hypothetical situation without sufficient information to make a good judgment. If you make a universal statement or a statement about principle, you need to make sure that it is true in EVERY case. Not some cases. EVERY case. There's no such thing as half a principle. Rational dialogue is supposed to be about identifying and articulating principles that are black and white, i.e., that are true.

I have no problem dealing with Biblical principles or any other true principles, but the task is to get them into that form: always true, no exceptions. If you can't do that, then the discussion is more or less a pointless waste of oxygen or electricity. And since this particular exercise of casuistry appears to have been just that, I just can't afford to dedicate any more time to it. I hope that it was helpful in some way.

Maureen said...

The clear principle of the Bible is that younger people ought to be "honoring" their father, mother, and elders by taking total care of them. Older people deserved this simply by dint of being older people. If you didn't take advantage of their wisdom and good counsel as well, you were an idiot; but even if their minds and bodies failed, you were to take care of them. No exceptions. Old people were precious and blessed, because if so few people survived to old age, God must have had special plans for those who did. Most pagans concerned about morality would have agreed; certainly the Chinese were big on honoring the aged. (My parents are old enough now to have experienced some foreign cultures' flattering respect for age, and how different it is from our mere politeness.)

In the earliest days of Christianity, Christians took care not just of their own old people, but also of anyone in the neighborhood whom they could find.

Therefore, if young people in our society, and in the churches, refuse to take older people into their houses and wait on them hand and foot, as Jesus and his peers would have thought only the minimum, older people clearly have to look out for themselves. Equally clearly, young people better keep their mouths shut unless they are prepared to fulfill the basic obligations of being human (much less Christian) in suitable style.

Maureen said...

Mark 7:10-12 -- For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.

Now, the only difference here between preaching sacrificial giving to the aged poor, and preaching corban in lieu of support to the children of the aged poor, is that you cut out the middleman.

Of course, this is not to say that it is always wrong to do sacrificial giving or rely on the Lord's charity. But to presume that the Lord will provide a living for everyone, and that the Lord wills sacrificial giving to everyone and has no individual plans for his people, is presumption and flouting of the Lord. What if the Lord provides you a quick death instead, and a judgment on the hardhearted community that encouraged the old to give without the community giving back?

God gives us brains and prudence for a reason. He went to a lot of trouble to do it. They are supposed to help us determine God's will and how to deploy our gifts, not to be thrown into the trash.

Jesus Christ praised the widow's mite; but the fact that all she had to give was a mite was a judgment on her relatives and neighbors, and on the Pharisees and Sadducees who were supposed to help out the widows and orphans.

You will notice that the good Lord didn't set loose his own mother into the world to sink or swim on her Son's divine charity every day; he assigned John the job of taking care of her. (Though I'm sure Mary also was meant to keep John out of trouble!)

Maureen said...

"Of course, this is not to say that it is always wrong to do sacrificial giving or rely on the Lord's charity."

I forgot to add, "Some people are led by God to do this, and they generally have a charism for working for the poor while being one of them."

CrimsonCatholic said...

@Maureen:
Thank you very much. You said exactly what I meant far better than I managed to express it!

Grubb said...

Maureen,

What if the Lord provides you a quick death instead, and a judgment on the hardhearted community that encouraged the old to give without the community giving back?

Is that what you think I'm encouraging? Do you think I tell my parents to give all their money to God and then plan to leave them destitute if they become penniless? I haven't said anything like that. Like CrimsonCatholic, you need to get it out of your head that I'm encouraging people to give all their money to God and none to an IRA. Plus your comment ignores the very very softhearted community that provides the poor & elderly medical services, food, and welfare, if they can't provide it for themselves.

God gives us brains and prudence for a reason. He went to a lot of trouble to do it. They are supposed to help us determine God's will and how to deploy our gifts, not to be thrown into the trash.

Do you think giving money to the poor and 10% to the church is throwing money in the trash? That doesn't make sense. In fact, giving $100 to the church and spending $3,700 on myself every month would probably be throwing money into the trash more than giving $500 to the church and/or poor and $3,300 on myself. Wouldn't you agree? Ask my parents who lost nearly 40% of what they had socked away in an IRA a few years before my dad retired. They didn't have a ton in there, but they lost 40%, and his IRA never recovered fully before he started withdrawing from it. Not THAT'S throwing money in the trash.

Jesus Christ praised the widow's mite; but the fact that all she had to give was a mite was a judgment on her relatives and neighbors, and on the Pharisees and Sadducees who were supposed to help out the widows and orphans.

On this we agree. I'm 100% in favor of children taking care of their parents as they get older. I will take care of mine & my in-laws, and I hope my children will take care of my wife and/or me if necessary.

Therefore, if young people in our society, and in the churches, refuse to take older people into their houses and wait on them hand and foot, as Jesus and his peers would have thought only the minimum, older people clearly have to look out for themselves.

So because your children may not look out for you in the future, you're going to stuff tons of money in the bank and only give the bare minimum (if that) to God's purposes? That's what it sounds like you're advocating. Wouldn't it be better to teach your children how to best honor God and our parents with our money by taking care of the poor and needy and then trust them to do that when we get older and needy? But if you show your kids that you give the minimum (or less) to the church and that you're going to provide for yourself, guess what they're going to learn. Selfishness.

If we want our children to be generous, we have to teach by example. If we want our children to be stingy and selfish, then we should teach them what we've learned from the baby boomers...it's all about me and making my life comfortable.

Equally clearly, young people better keep their mouths shut unless they are prepared to fulfill the basic obligations of being human (much less Christian) in suitable style.

And maybe those of us who ARE willing should open our mouths and encourage others to do what's right. Don't you agree that being generous is good? Jesus does. The widow did. Paul did. But what you seem to be saying is, "I need to be taking care of myself first." That's a very American attitude, but it isn't a Christian attitude at all. Don't you agree?
.

Phil said...

Dave,

I must say that you are one of the few people whom in my view have never truly lost a debate. Tied at the very least, but not lost (that is, judging by the material displayed within this blog). As such I am perplexed by the method that you use in your analysis of opposing arguments. It is as if you can spot a fallacy as easily and as quickly as a raven can spot a shiny coin. I wish I could in a sense "draw back the curtain" of the written debate and glimpse the inner workings of the intellect as it writes.

What sources have you used to feed your method?What canon do you study from? What processes, if any, do you go through during a debate? How do you pick apart words to reveal hidden premises, attitudes and fallacious reasoning? Is there a way in which someone such as myself might equally aquire this skill?

Adomnan said...

Nick, I would like to respond briefly to your observations about the works of the Law. I have to be brief because I'm busy this weekend. Please forgive any typos.

Whenever I speak of "works of the Law," all of Paul's references to "works" should be understood as well. I know you agree with me that works of the Law and works are synonymous in Paul's letters, but I thought I'd reiterate this for others who might be following this issue.

The question before us is whether works of the Law refer to all things commanded in the Jewish Law, as you contend, or if they refer only to specifically Jewish rites and observances, as I maintain.

First, please bear in mind that a phrase like "x of y" does not necessarily mean "all x of y." It can also mean "x peculiar to or characteristic of y." Thus, if we were to replace the phrase "works of the Law" with "works of Judaism," most people would understand the latter phrase to refer to works peculiar to Judaism, like circumcision, food restrictions and other specifically Jewish observances. This is how I believe Paul uses the phrase "works of the Law."

Following, in brief, are my chief reasons for concluding that Paul's "works of the Law" have this restricted meaning:

1) The only clear example of a work of the Law that Paul gives is circumcision, which he mentions often. The proof, however, that these works included all Jewish customs is found in the Book of Acts. For example, in Acts 21:21, the upholders of the Law accuse Paul (falsely) of "instructing all Jews living among the gentiles to break away from Moses, authorizing them not to circumcise their children or to follow the customary practices." These are precisely the works of the Law that Paul instructed GENTILES not to follow. These are also the same practices that Peter refers to at the Council of Jerusalem, saying they were a "burden that neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were strong enough to support." James then suggests the Gentiles should be instructed only to follow a small number of Jewish practices, not including circumcision (Acts 15:20).

In any event, no moral precept is ever put in the category of "works of the Law." The clear implication of Paul's letters and of Acts is that only rites and observances are under discussion.

2)In Rom 2:13 Paul writes that God will justify "the doers of the Law." I think you agree with me that Paul is not speaking hypothetically here. In Rom 3:20, Paul asserts that "no human being can be justified through works of the Law." If "works of the Law" included everything the Law commanded, then a doer of these works would be a "doer of the Law," and Paul would be contradicting himself, in one place saying doers of the Law would be justified and in another saying they wouldn't be.

It follows that one can be a doer of the Law without doing the works of the Law. However, one cannot be a doer of the Law without obeying moral precepts. Therefore, "works of the Law" do not refer to moral precepts.

3) In Rom 3:28-30, Paul writes, "...a person is justified by faith and not by works of the Law. Do you think God is the God only of the Jews, and not of gentiles too? Most certainly of gentiles too, since there is only one God. He will justify the circumcised by their faith, and he will justify the uncircumcised through their faith." Paul is saying here that the Judaizers' insistence that only doers of "works of the Law" can be justified implies that God is a God of Jews only. That must mean that works of the Law, for Paul, are something only Jews do. But this is precisely my defintion of works of the Law: They are peculiarly Jewish rites and observances.

In a nutshell, this is my argument for the restricted meaning of works of the Law in Paul. I could expand this. However, these points should be enough to establish my position.

Adomnan said...

As an addendum to my last post, I would urge you to contrast "works of the Law," as Jewish rites and observances, with the sacraments and sacramentals of the Church. The sacraments and sacramentals are the rites and observances of Christianity, the "works of the New Law." Unlike the rites and observances of the Jewish Law, they do justify. Circumcision doesn't justify, but baptism does. The other sacraments and sacramentals cause us to grow in justice. Paul was introducing a new covenant with new "works." The old covenant was the foreshadowing, the new one the reality foreshadowed.

Adomnan said...

Having covered these preliminaries, Nick, let me look at some of the comments you made.

Nick: (The works of the Law are) circumcision plus any command given in the Torah.

Gal3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them."

With circumcision, you're legally bound to obey "all the things written in the Book of the Law" in order to avoid the curse.

Adomnan: Paul is not warning the Galatian gentiles that circumcision will make them responsible for obeying God's moral commands. They are responsible for that whether they're circumcised or not. Faith/baptism doesn't free us from what Paul, in Rom 2, calls "the righteous requirement of the Law."

Paul is rather warning the Galatians that following the Mosaic law will be a greater burden than they expected, as Peter said, "a burden we and our ancestors could not support." Even when he speaks of this curse, Paul has only the burdensome and now useless customs in mind, not the moral precepts of the Law. And that is why Paul tells them not to rely on "the works of the Law;" that is, on these now useless customs.

By saying they're obliged to follow "everything" in the Law, Paul is putting them on notice that they can't pick and choose which Mosaic observances to keep and which to neglect.

Moreover, it is absurd to suggest that Paul is claiming the Law demands perfect obedience and "curses" anyone who falls short of perfection. If this were his point, the Judaizers could immediately confute him. As Paul well knew, the Law itself provided remedies for those who sinned. In most cases, sincere repentance without sacrifice was quite sufficient.

Adomnan said...

Nick: Any act commanded by the Torah and done under its jurisdiction is a Work of the Law.
It's impossible to limit it to circumcision, because circumcision isn't a stand alone act.

Adomnan: But circumcision is the key work of the Law, because it brings one into the Law. Thus it is like baptism in Christianity.

Nick: It's a formal entrance into the Old Covenant and a subscription to obeying the whole Mosaic Law.

Adomnan: True. But this doesn't imply that Paul's "works" include obeying moral precepts.

Nick: Same thing with ceremonies and other rites, they are meaningless divorced from the Torah as a whole.

Adomnan: Right. And this is why Paul says that these ceremonies and other rites don't justify.

Nick: Yes, the (other 9 commandments) are (works of the Law, too). The 4th Commandment can't just be ripped out from the other 9.

Adomnan: The concept of the Decalogue, or 10 Commandments, is a useful one; but it's not one that Paul himself uses. There's no evidence that he regarded the Decalogue as a unit, and so he would have had no compunction about "ripping something out" of it.

However, Paul could have retained the 4th command, if he wished to. He would just have reinterpreted it in the light of the law of Christ to refer to our New Covenant sabbath; i.e., Sunday. That's what the Church does. In any event, the specifically Jewish observance of the sabbath has indeed been set aside, or "ripped out," if you prefer.

Adomnan said...

Nick: If circumcision enters one into the Mosaic Covenant, and one goes through with it, they've repudiated the Christian Covenant. If circumcision is merely social, no different than a dress code, then the Christian covenant is based on external features, not spiritual ones.

Adomnan: This is a non-sequitur. Why would the fact that the Mosaic Covenant is based on "external features" (which it is, according to Paul; i.e., it's "carnal") imply that the Christian covenant is based on external features?

Nick: If you agree why that work of the Law alienates, then you agree that Paul's main contention is the Old Covenant versus the New, one jurisdiction versus another, not about ceremonies and rites which are inherently neutral.

Adomnan: Here again you seem to be coming pretty close to saying, "It doesn't matter what the works of the Law are, because Paul's main contention is X." Well, I agree that Paul's main contention is X. What I'm trying to establish is what works of the Law are, whether or not they are Paul's "main contention."

Nick: As clarified above, my definition goes beyond Jewish rites.

Adomnan: Why?

Nick: Paul's focus when contending with the Judaizers is addressing the role of the Mosaic Law/Covenant in salvation history, how it's served it's temporary purpose, and is now obsolete.

Adomnan: Okay. I agree. Now what does that have to do with what "works of the Law" are? If the Mosaic Law is now obsolete, then obviously its "works" (i.e., rites and observances) are obsolete as well, especially the work (circumcision) that gets you into it. So how does this fact undermine my position that these works are rites and observances?

You sometimes seem to dismiss "rites and observances" as something too trifling for Paul to pay much attention to. Given that we have a sacramental religion (i.e., one based on rites and observances), I'm not sympathetic to such an attitude. Rites are crucially important.

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Hi Adomnan,

A: 1) The only clear example of a work of the Law that Paul gives is circumcision, which he mentions often.

N: Agreed, but that can also be due to the fact circumcision is the 'gateway' to the Law so to speak.
You mention Acts 21:21 but the thing is, the definition of 'customs' here is not established; it can be taken in a 'wide' sense (the Torah as a whole) or a narrow sense (the Jewish rites). Acts 15:5 and 13:39 (among other places) speak of the "law of Moses" (or just "law") which to me sound all encompassing.

Next you mention what the Gentiles are to abstain from (Acts 15:20; 21:25), but it includes abstaining from "sexual immorality," which necessarily pertains to 'morals' and not just 'rites'. Now, obviously lying, theft, fornication, etc, were forbidden for Christians already, so the "sexual immorality" mentioned here must be a specific legal type similar to 1 Cor 5:1 & Lev 18. The point I'm making is that 'sexual immorality' cannot be simply put in the "rites" category. This also goes along with the 'murder', 'adultery', 'divorce', etc, mentioned in Matthew 5, which pertained to 'morals' but also listed as legal decrees in the Law. Jesus says His standards rise above that of the law (Mk 10:2-12).

A: In any event, no moral precept is ever put in the category of "works of the Law." The clear implication of Paul's letters and of Acts is that only rites and observances are under discussion.

N: I don't think this is a fair analysis for a few reasons:
(1) I've seen no passages linking "works of the Law" (a term which doesn't even appear in Acts to my knowledge) to rites (besides circumcision), much less only rites;
(2) The letter to the Gentiles in Acts says they must abstain from "sexual immorality" which by nature carries a 'moral' component;
(3) The term "law of Moses" and/or "law" alone (in my opinion) more easily apply to the whole Torah rather than a subset (as in Acts 15:6 and 13:39);
(4) Moral precepts are listed in the same breath as "works of the Law" and "circumcision", for example: Romans 2:21-25 ("Circumcision has value if you observe the law"), Rom 3:9-20 ("by works of the law no human being will be justified...through the law comes knowledge of sin"), Gal 3:10, etc,;
(5) Paul contrasts the whole Law as a imperfect and temporary covenant to the perfect and eternal new covenant: Rom 10:4-5; Gal 3:17; Gal 4:24; etc.

(cont)

Nick said...

(cont, cut in 2 because blogger was crashing):

A: 2)In Rom 2:13 Paul writes that God will justify "the doers of the Law." ...
It follows that one can be a doer of the Law without doing the works of the Law. ...

N: My take on this is that a 'doer of the Law' is one who is fulfilling the Law (in Christ), that is living by the Spirit (Rom 8:4). A 'doer of the Law' must be circumcised, but by the Spirit (Rom 2:29; Phil 3:3). A 'doer of the Law' must go beyond Mosaic Morality as well (Mat 5:21ff; Mk 10:2-12).


A: 3) In Rom 3:28-30, Paul writes, "...a person is justified by faith and not by works of the Law.
...
Paul is saying here that the Judaizers' insistence that only doers of "works of the Law" can be justified implies that God is a God of Jews only. That must mean that works of the Law, for Paul, are something only Jews do. But this is precisely my defintion of works of the Law: They are peculiarly Jewish rites and observances.

N: But I see this in a greater sense: The Old Covenant. Circumcision is not something Jews just do, it incorporates one into the Old Covenant. This is precisely why Paul appeals to Abraham's promises which came before the law and circumcision even existed: Rom 4:12-15; Gal 3:15-18. This is how Paul 'defeats' the Judaizers. Further, Paul doesn't just contrast "faith" to "works of the Law" but "faith" to "righteousness of the Law" as Rom 10:4-6 and Phil 3:6,9 (among others) do, indicating it's more than just rites he's dealing with.

Nick said...

Adomnan, I'm finishing up responding to the rest of your comments before you respond to what i"ve just said.

Nick said...

A: Paul is not warning the Galatian gentiles that circumcision will make them responsible for obeying God's moral commands. They are responsible for that whether they're circumcised or not.

N: I can see why you say this, but it's a misunderstanding of my position. You're equating "God's moral commands" with the moral commands of the Torah, and I don't believe that's accurate. As a result, your comments here don't really address my original claim on Gal 3:10. Two points I want to make: (1) The 'curse' mentioned only applies to those under the Mosaic Jurisdiction, so a Gentile breaking Mosaic Law would not receive the curses mentioned; (2) The 'moral' teachings of the Mosaic Law were imperfect, inferior, and temporal as Mat 5:21ff and Mk 10:2-12 prove, and thus a Jew is held to an inferior moral standard than Christians.
Given these two points, THAT is why the Gentiles didn't want to be bound to the Mosaic Law as Paul warns against.


A: Paul is rather warning the Galatians that following the Mosaic law will be a greater burden than they expected, as Peter said, "a burden we and our ancestors could not support." ...

N: The "curse" Paul mentions is not the burden of the Law, but rather earthly punishments and especially physical death penalty Gal 3:13 mentions for breaking the Law. When the Mosaic Law mentions "curses" (Gal 3:10 quotes Deut 27) it is in regards to earthly punishments like no children, sickness, poverty, death...contrasted to the blessings of children, wealth, long life.

A: By saying they're obliged to follow "everything" in the Law, Paul is putting them on notice that they can't pick and choose which Mosaic observances to keep and which to neglect.

N: Paul is quoting Deut 27:26 in Gal 3:10, which is a long list of moral commands including being cursed for not doing them.

A: Moreover, it is absurd to suggest that Paul is claiming the Law demands perfect obedience and "curses" anyone who falls short of perfection.

N: I never claimed it demanded 100% sinlessness (which we know is a Protestant error). The fact is curses still apply for various violations, especially the death penalty for grave violations.


A: But circumcision is the key work of the Law, because it brings one into the Law. Thus it is like baptism in Christianity.

N: Yes. And with it we're bound to all of the Church's precepts, both 'moral' and 'ritual'.

A: True. But this doesn't imply that Paul's "works" include obeying moral precepts.

N: This is where you're getting hung up: 'God's Moral Precepts' is not equivalent to 'Mosaic Moral Precepts.' The moral precepts of the Mosaic Law are inferior to the moral precepts of the New Law. In the Mosaic Law, you could be 'righteous' under the Law and yet still commit adultery in your heart (Mat 5:21) and even divorce your wife (Mk 10:2-12), among other things.
It also has to do with jurisdiction as well: If you commit theft under the Law, you are subject to it's curse. If you commit theft outside the Law, you've violated God's command, but you havn't violated the Mosaic Law nor subject to it's penalties. This is precisely what Heb 10:26-29 is saying.

Nick said...

A: Right. And this is why Paul says that these ceremonies and other rites don't justify.

N: Which means they don't justify any more than the Torah as a whole does.


A: The concept of the Decalogue, or 10 Commandments, is a useful one; but it's not one that Paul himself uses.

N: Amen! That's my point! Christians are not subject to the "Ten Commandments." The Ten Commandments only apply to those under the Mosaic Law! However, the Ten Commandments are a useful way of remembering basic moral precepts, so Paul and the Church use them as GUIDELINES only, but not a legal standard. When a Christian commits adultery, he is NOT guilty of breaking the Legal code called the Ten Commandments, but he is guilty of breaking Christ's Commandments (Mat 5:21). That is the key.

A: However, Paul could have retained the 4th command, if he wished to. He would just have reinterpreted it in the light of the law of Christ to refer to our New Covenant sabbath; i.e., Sunday. That's what the Church does. In any event, the specifically Jewish observance of the sabbath has indeed been set aside, or "ripped out," if you prefer.

N: That's just it. The Church isn't ripping anything apart, it's setting up it's own NEW set of rules. The Ten Commandments are done away with, with the Church writing it's laws in light of Christ.

A: This is a non-sequitur. Why would the fact that the Mosaic Covenant is based on "external features" (which it is, according to Paul; i.e., it's "carnal") imply that the Christian covenant is based on external features?

N: Because Paul says you repudiate the New Covenant by engaging in external features (Gal 5:4).


A: Here again you seem to be coming pretty close to saying, "It doesn't matter what the works of the Law are, because Paul's main contention is X." Well, I agree that Paul's main contention is X. What I'm trying to establish is what works of the Law are, whether or not they are Paul's "main contention."

N: Haha! Well, I am kind of saying that, but not in the sense of "I don't care."

Adomnan: ... So how does this fact undermine my position that these works are rites and observances?

N: Because it's a package deal. When the Old Covenant went obsolete, EVERY legal demand - both cermonial and moral - was no longer in force. At that point you'd be focused upon only one obsolete aspect when in fact the entire thing is obsolete.

A: You sometimes seem to dismiss "rites and observances" as something too trifling for Paul to pay much attention to. ...

N: It's not that they are too trifling, but rather that they directly tie into keeping the Law as a whole. It's a mistake to think that one can just keep the moral demands of the Law while making the ceremonial optional, and that's what reducing works of the law to rites does.

Adomnan said...

Nick: You mention Acts 21:21 but the thing is, the definition of 'customs' here is not established; it can be taken in a 'wide' sense (the Torah as a whole) or a narrow sense (the Jewish rites).

Adomnan: I disagree. The Greek word is "ethos" (in the dative plural ethesin). It just means "customs," with no suggestion that anything other than customary usages are intended. It makes no sense to say, for example, that "thou shalt not kill" is a "custom" of the Jews. Observing the Sabbath, circumcision, certain dietary laws, etc. are "customs."

Nick: Acts 15:5 and 13:39 (among other places) speak of the "law of Moses" (or just "law") which to me sound all encompassing.

Adomnan: Once again, it is not a matter of dispute between us that Paul insisted gentiles didn’t have to observe the Jewish Law, as such. We agree about this. It has nothing to do with "works of the Law." So why do you keep bringing it up?

You point out that Acts never refers to “works of the Law.” Well, you‘re right. It doesn‘t -- in so many words. But it does refer to the same issue, only as “circumcision and Jewish customs.” Wouldn’t it be a bit strange if Luke, Paul’s companion, never made any reference to Paul’s notion of "works of the Law" at all, given how much Paul writes about this in Romans and Galatians? Well, I maintain that Luke does mention them, here in Acts 21:21.

Nick: Next you mention what the Gentiles are to abstain from (Acts 15:20; 21:25), but it includes abstaining from "sexual immorality," which necessarily pertains to 'morals' and not just 'rites'. Now, obviously lying, theft, fornication, etc, were forbidden for Christians already, so the "sexual immorality" mentioned here must be a specific legal type similar to 1 Cor 5:1 & Lev 18. The point I'm making is that 'sexual immorality' cannot be simply put in the "rites" category.

Adomnan: I'll grant you that, of the four prohibitions listed by James, this one of sexual immorality ("porneia" in Greek) may overlap both the customary and moral spheres. James probably thought of these four categories as dubious areas, the customary or taboo practices that might shade over into morality, and apparently the Council agreed with him.

Father Joseph Fitzmyer, in his commentary on Acts, says that the Council enforced these four prohibitions on gentiles because Jewish Christians could only have fellowship with gentiles who observed them. As he puts it, "The four things that James would impose are derived from part of the Holiness Code in Lev 17-18, which proscribed certain things not only for 'anyone of the house of Israel,' but also for 'the aliens that sojourn among you.'"

As for "porneia," Fr. Fitzmyer notes, "in Lev 18:6-18 (LXX) of the Holiness Code, where porneia does not occur, various forms of marriage within close degrees of kinship are proscribed. In time, Jewish teachers and rabbis came to describe such illicit marital unions as 'zenut.' This specific meaning of zenut is found in QL (note: one of the Dead Sea scrolls), showing that such a meaning was current among Jews of pre-Christian Palestine."

Thus, it turns out that "porneia" in Acts is after all more a question of specific Jewish practices concerning degrees of consanguinity than it is a matter of universal morality.

Adomnan said...

Nick: (1) I've seen no passages linking "works of the Law" (a term which doesn't even appear in Acts to my knowledge) to rites (besides circumcision), much less only rites;

Adomnan: The notion appears as circumcision and Jewish customs in Acts 21:21.

You say that "works of the Law" are not linked to rites, EXCEPT FOR CIRCUMCISION. Therefore, they are linked to rites, or at least "a rite." What they aren't linked to is moral precepts.

Besides, Paul does separate moral precepts and give them their own designation and treatment, AND he contrasts them with works of the Law, or at least with circumcision, the consummate work of the Law. Here's where Paul does this (Rom 2:25-27):

"Circumcision, indeed, has value, if you observe the Law. But if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become meaningless. Again, if an uncircumcised man keeps hte precepts of the Law (note: or "the just requirements of the Law"), will not his uncircumcision be reckoned as circumcision? He who by nature is uncircumcised yet keeps the Law will condemn you, with your letter (of the Law) and circumcision, as a transgressor of the Law."

So, Paul differentiates the just requirements/moral precepts of the Law (called "dikaiomata" in Greek) from what he will soon call (in Rom 3) the works ("erga") of the Law. These works are what he refers to here as the "letter and circumcision." It is the "letter" of the Law that Jews observe when they observe rites and customs, like circumcision. It is the dikaiomata that they and we observe when we keep the Law's just requirements.

Adomnan said...

Nick: 2) The letter to the Gentiles in Acts says they must abstain from "sexual immorality" which by nature carries a 'moral' component;

Adomnan: I've dealt with this. The "porneia" in Acts in fact refers to specific Jewish customs regarding consanguinity and marriage, as Fr. Fitzmyer points out. We Christians may or may not follow the same rules of consanguinity as the Jews of Leviticus. I don't know. But in this case, it's Jewish custom that is in view, not morality as such.

Nick: 3) The term "law of Moses" and/or "law" alone (in my opinion) more easily apply to the whole Torah rather than a subset (as in Acts 15:6 and 13:39);

Adomnan: Yes, yes. For the umpteenth time, who disputes this obvious fact? But while the Law "more easily" applies to the whole Torah, the "works of the Law" apply only to specifically Jewish rites and observances.

When did I EVER say, imply or insinuate that "the Law" applies to a "subset" of the Torah? Haven't I agreed with you on this over and over? How many more times will I have to repeat this fact?

4) Moral precepts are listed in the same breath as "works of the Law" and "circumcision", for example: Romans 2:21-25 ("Circumcision has value if you observe the law"), Rom 3:9-20 ("by works of the law no human being will be justified...through the law comes knowledge of sin"), Gal 3:10, etc,;

Adomnan: So the mere fact that two concepts are mentioned in the same sentence means they're the same concept? Whatever.

If I say that baptism has value if you keep your baptismal promises, does that means that I'm saying "keeping your bapstismal promises" is a sacrament like baptism? I think not. By the same token, if Paul says circumcision has value if you observe the Law, does that mean that "observing the Law" is a work of the Law, like circumcision? I think not.

The fact that the Law, as a written code, merely provides knowledge of sin, but not the power to defeat sin, does not in any way imply that the moral precepts of the Law are "works of the Law." Circumcision is a work; a moral precept isn't.

Nick:(5) Paul contrasts the whole Law as a imperfect and temporary covenant to the perfect and eternal new covenant: Rom 10:4-5; Gal 3:17; Gal 4:24; etc.

Adomnan: True, but irrelevant to our discussion. Has nothing to do with the definition of "works of the Law."

Adomnan said...

Nick, I had some comments on your observations about the "curse of the Law" in Galatians, but they disappeared into hyperspace.

I may resurrect them later on, but at this point I feel like cutting to the quick.

Your point that the moral precepts of the Law were superceded by higher moral demands is intersting and has a lot of validity. Nevertheless, it remains true that works of the Law do not include moral precepts.

I'll demonstrate this by a reductio ad absurdum.

Let us suppose, as you do, that "works of the Law" encompass everything the Jewish Law commands.

Both Jesus and Paul say the Jewish Law commands us to love God and our neighbor. Therefroe, by your definition, "loving God and loving your neighbor" are "works of the Law."

Okay, Paul says in Romans 3:20 "No one will be justified before God by works of the Law." Given that loving God and loving our neighbor are works of the Law, again by your definition, then Paul's statement would clearly imply, "No one will be justified before God by loving God and loving his neighbor."

This is a reductio ad absurdum. Therefore, our initial premise, namely, that "works of the Law" encompass all the Law commands, is false.

Adomnan said...

Should be "superseded" in my last post, not "superceded."

Grubb said...

Adomnan,

I'll start with your final comment first.

Grubb: From what you've said, it sounds as though you agree we shouldn't retire as a permanent vacation to sit around and do nothing constructive. Is that right?

Adomnan: People who sit at the feet of the Lord cannot help but be constructive, whether they're sometimes busy like Martha or not.


Are you a politician? I asked if you agreed that people shouldn't retire and do nothing constructive, and you said that people who retire and study & contemplate are constructive. I agree, people who study, contemplate, and then pass that wisdom on to others are being constructive. But that's not what I asked. I asked specifically about people who retire and do nothing constructive, because THAT'S the majority.

Grubb: Are working and study & contemplation mutually exclusive? Not at all.

Adomnan: Apparently they were in Martha and Mary's case. Martha did all the work, and Mary did all the study and contemplation.


Just as you did in the previous point, you're answering a question for the majority of cases with an answer that applies to a minority subset. You know work & study aren't mutually exclusive 90% of the time. That's how you have so much of the knowledge you have. You work during the day and study in your free time. There definitely are times when study takes the front seat (college, seminary, retreats, retirement,...) and times when it takes a back seat (when supporting a family, when providing for missionaries, when buying a house,...)
.

Grubb said...

However, by valuing contemplation over work, Jesus is: b) removing any possible criticism of retired people who devote themselves to study and contemplation, eschewing all "work."

I haven't criticized them. My stance all along has been that people should be doing something constructive if/when they retire. I didn't initially consider studying & being contemplative when I was considering retirement, because that's not what most do. I appreciate your bringing that up (or maybe it was CC).

Regardless, you haven't shown anything in scripture (that I remember) that says anything remotely close to, "Mass the wealth between 30 and 60 and retire to live the high life," but I have shown you where Jesus did say, "Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth where moth & rust destroy and thieves break in and steal." (Matt 6) One could be equally studious & contemplative living with his children off a small IRA as he could living in a big house by himself off a large IRA.

Ironically, the one thing you encourage people to do is one thing you seem to be adverse to. You encourage them to study, contemplate, and advise; but you yourself have admitted that you don't necessarily want people meddling in your "business". While you didn't mention the "advising" portion of contemplation, it MUST be part of it. What good is it if I learn all the wonderful secrets of Jesus and then just keep them to myself? None. James said we're to be doers of the Word, and Jesus & Paul told us to be spreaders of the truth.

So studying & contemplation will naturally lead to acting on what we learn and/or passing the wisdom on. For the retired, acting on it will lead to good actions and possibly volunteer work and passing it on will lead to them getting into someone else' business.

After all, such people have already spend most of their lives on the worse part, and so who could object to them spending what's left exclusively on the better part

I agree. What I don't agree with is giving 15% to my IRA, 0% to the church & poor, so that I can live an unproductive life as most retired Americans do. For those people, they neither served God with their money while they were working nor with their time/effort when they retire. I would rather see someone (and I practice what I preach) give 10% or more to the church & poor their whole work life and then retire and honor God with their time & effort. My biggest gripe from the very beginning was that people are way too willing to spend 98%, 99%, or 100% of their money on houses, cars, vacations, cell phones, electronics, IRAs, cable tv, and every thing under the sun and then give little or no money to the church & poor. THAT is what your average American does. Do you disagree?
.

Grubb said...

CrimsonCatholic,

If you make a universal statement or a statement about principle, you need to make sure that it is true in EVERY case. Not some cases. EVERY case. There's no such thing as half a principle.

Can you name a few biblical "principles" for me? I'd especially like it if you could quote a biblical principle regarding "giving."

Rational dialogue is supposed to be about identifying and articulating principles that are black and white, i.e., that are true.

No, rational dialogue is intended to pit ideas against each other and see which ideas are valid and which ones are shown to be false. And in some instances both ideas are valid under certain circumstances; these fall into the "disputable matters" category.
.

Adomnan said...

Nick: You're equating "God's moral commands" with the moral commands of the Torah, and I don't believe that's accurate.

Adomnan: In Rom 2, Paul calls the moral commands of the Torah "righteous requirements," and he expects Christians to fulfill them. I don't see the radical cleavage you posit between the Torah's righteous requirements and the law of Christ. It's true that Christ taught a higher morality in some respects than did Moses, but both He and Paul thought of this new law as a development of what was best (and what was universal) in the Mosaic law, not as a repudiation of the old law.

Nick: As a result, your comments here don't really address my original claim on Gal 3:10. Two points I want to make: (1) The 'curse' mentioned only applies to those under the Mosaic Jurisdiction, so a Gentile breaking Mosaic Law would not receive the curses mentioned;

Adomnan: Actually, I disagree. Well, I do agree that the curse in Galatians 3 doesn't apply to gentiles who aren't under the Law. But I also believe it doesn't apply to Jews.

To whom, then, does it apply? Well, to the readers of Paul's letter; i.e., to those gentiles in Galatia who were "God-fearers" before their conversion to Christianity. They observed certain practices of the Law selectively and maintained some degree of association with a Jewish community while remaining gentile. It was they who were considering "relying on the works of the Law" (e.g., getting circumcised, for starters) and yet had no intention of observing all that the Law prescribes.

Well, to be precise, these semi-Jewish "God-fearing" Galatians were not "cursed" yet, because they weren't yet under the Law. But they would be cursed, according to Paul, as soon as they bound themselves to the Law through circumcision.

That this is the correct understanding of the "curse" is shown by the context of the passage. Paul says in Gal 3:8, quoting the OT, that "all nations would be blessed in Abraham." But then he goes on to talk about a "curse," rather than a blessing, brought by the Judaizers to the Galatians. Who would be the bearers of this curse? Well, they would be gentiles, just like the potential bearers of the blessing in 3:8 -- not all gentiles, however, but only those who "rely on works of the Law," without doing all the Law prescribes (i.e., the God-fearing gentiles in Galatia).

Paul goes on to say that these very people could enjoy the blessing promised through Abraham if they rejected the Law and embraced the gospel "so that Abraham's blessing might come to the gentiles in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:14), thus taking the argument from blessing to curse and then back to blessing in a ring composition.

Adomnan said...

Nick: When the Old Covenant went obsolete, EVERY legal demand - both cermonial and moral - was no longer in force. At that point you'd be focused upon only one obsolete aspect when in fact the entire thing is obsolete.

Adomnan: Your position is surprisingly antinomian, almost Valentinian.

My position, as you know, is that what you call the ceremonial demand of the Law (and I call "the works of the Law") is no longer in force. However, the moral demands of the Law remain in force, sometimes strengthened or modified, but not cast aside as obsolete.

Already a number of times I have pointed out Paul's endorsement of the "righteous requirements" (dikaiomata) of the Law, which he clearly did not view as obsolete. Similarly, when he says that Christian gentiles are "doers of the Law" (as opposed to doers of the works of the Law), Paul is referring here to the Jewish Law, given that almost all of his references to "Law" are to the Jewish Law. So, again, there's no note of obsolescence (although he only has the moral demand of the Law in mind in Rom 2:13).

Or, take a look at Rom 13:8-10): "Owe nothing to anyone, save that of loving one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the Law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet' -- or any other commandment -- are summed up in this one, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor, for love is the fulfillment of the Law." (Hm. Another ring composition.)

So, while I would agree with you that the Jewish Law, as a religion, is no longer "in force." It seems clear to me that Paul regards the moral commands of the Torah still to be fully in force.

Adomnan said...

Nick: That's my point! Christians are not subject to the "Ten Commandments." The Ten Commandments only apply to those under the Mosaic Law! However, the Ten Commandments are a useful way of remembering basic moral precepts, so Paul and the Church use them as GUIDELINES only, but not a legal standard. When a Christian commits adultery, he is NOT guilty of breaking the Legal code called the Ten Commandments, but he is guilty of breaking Christ's Commandments (Mat 5:21).

And, also Nick: It also has to do with jurisdiction as well: If you commit theft under the Law, you are subject to its curse.

Adomnan: In a way, I agree with this. In breaking one of Christ's commandments, we are transgressing the law of Christ, not the Mosaic Law -- because we aren't under the Mosaic Law. (That's why gentiles weren't transgressors of the Law at all, at any epoch, because they weren't under the Law. And given that they had no revealed law, they weren't transgressors in ANY religious sense. Only Jews and Christians can be transgressors.)

However, it does not follow from this that "works of the Law" encompass all that the Law commands.

By the way, you seem to be implying that someone could do all that the Jewish Law commanded and yet remain unjustified, because he was under the wrong "jurisdiction." I disagree. This, to my mind, borders on Protestant legalism, an overvaluation of "jurisdictions." It's almost a new guise, although you don't intend it to be, for bringing "the imputation of Christ's righteousness" back into the picture. After all, there is no huge difference between being under Christ's "jurisdiction" and being under His "imputation."

Paul wasn't concerned about jurisdictional issues, and neither was Jesus. For Paul, the problem with the Law was that it didn't impart the Holy Spirit; i.e., that circumcision wasn't baptism.

The moral demand of the Law is summed up in the command to love God and neighbor. Anyone who loves is justified. Jesus Christ just enables us to love.

Adomnan said...

Adomnan: People who sit at the feet of the Lord cannot help but be constructive, whether they're sometimes busy like Martha or not.

Grubb: Are you a politician?

Adomnan: I don't think that would get your vote!

If I were a politician, I'd ALWAYS tell you what you wanted to hear.

Grubb: I didn't initially consider studying & being contemplative when I was considering retirement, because that's not what most do. I appreciate your bringing that up (or maybe it was CC).

Adomnan: You're welcome. Now that you concede that study and contemplation are good ways to spend retirement, I don't think we have much of a disagreement anymore.

Grubb: Regardless, you haven't shown anything in scripture (that I remember) that says anything remotely close to, "Mass the wealth between 30 and 60 and retire to live the high life,"

Adomnan: Scripture? Well, they didn't have retirement back then, and so they wouldn't have much to say about it. Retirement is an achievement of modern society. And if you think something is bad because they didn't have it back in the Bible, wouldn't that imply that slavery was good because they had slavery then?

Grubb: You yourself have admitted that you don't necessarily want people meddling in your "business". While you didn't mention the "advising" portion of contemplation, it MUST be part of it. What good is it if I learn all the wonderful secrets of Jesus and then just keep them to myself?

Adomnan: I'm trying to advise you. Does that count?

Grubb: So studying & contemplation will naturally lead to acting on what we learn and/or passing the wisdom on. For the retired, acting on it will lead to good actions and possibly volunteer work

Adomnan: I agree.

Grubb: and passing it on will lead to them getting into someone else' business.

Adomnan: Not if they're smart.

Grubb: My biggest gripe from the very beginning was that people are way too willing to spend 98%, 99%, or 100% of their money on houses, cars, vacations, cell phones, electronics, IRAs, cable tv, and every thing under the sun and then give little or no money to the church & poor. THAT is what your average American does. Do you disagree?

Adomnan: I agree with you that too many Americans try to find contentment through consumerism. At least that's my impression. Few people I actually know do this. However, I wouldn't lump vacations and IRAs in with all the consumer goods you mentioned. I think people need vacations and IRAs. And cell phones are pretty close to a necessity, too. They're certainly better than land lines.

Grubb said...

Adomnan,

If I were a politician, I'd ALWAYS tell you what you wanted to hear.

I was referring to how I asked a specific question, and you answered a different question. : ) It was intended to be a humorous comment.

Adomnan: You're welcome. Now that you concede that study and contemplation are good ways to spend retirement, I don't think we have much of a disagreement anymore.

My argument is against what the average person does, not against what the 1%, 5%, 10%, or whatever minority percent studies God's Word. But the warning I'd give to someone who's planning to retire and be contemplative for God's glory is this: in the parable of the rich man who planned to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to store his abundant crop, God said, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" (Luke 12:20b) So if someone gave 0% to God while saving up to retire, they would have missed their chance to serve God with their money while on earth and to store up their treasure in heaven AND their opportunity to be contemplative. That's why I'm for giving generously (not just a paltry 1 or 2%) to God's purposes on earth AND for putting money in an IRA.

Adomnan: Scripture? Well, they didn't have retirement back then, and so they wouldn't have much to say about it.

But you said retirement was a valid idea in Greek & Roman times when you agreed with CrimsonCatholic; remember this?

Crimson Catholic: Both Greek and Roman culture recognized that the accumulation of property was a good thing so that there could be people, and particularly older people, devoted to contemplation and the intellectual life.

Grubb: But Greek & Roman cultures didn't necessarily reflect Biblical principles did they?

Adomnan: Jesus agreed with Greek and Roman culture on this one, Grubb. We see this in the story about Martha and Mary from Luke's Gospel (Luke 10:38-42):


So if retirement did exist back then, and the Bible doesn't encourage it, what does that mean? You may say it means nothing. Maybe it means it wasn't encouraged until one couldn't reasonably work any longer. Obviously a guy who was old would do better to advise other people how to plant, grow, & harvest a crop on his land than to try to do it himself.
.

Grubb said...

Adomnan: I'm trying to advise you. Does that count?

It's a start, but to truly impact someone, they need to see your whole life. It's one thing for me to advise you & others online to give 10% to the church & 5% to an IRA, but if you actually knew me and saw the car I drive, the way I live, and the things I do and don't do with my money, my advice may have a bigger impact; because you'd see I'm actually practicing what I preach.

Grubb: and passing it on will lead to them getting into someone else' business.

Adomnan: Not if they're smart.


Not sure if you were joking or not, but Jesus absolutely was in favor of us getting involved in each other's lives. You may not like it, but you can't deny it.

However, I wouldn't lump vacations and IRAs in with all the consumer goods you mentioned. I think people need vacations and IRAs. And cell phones are pretty close to a necessity, too. They're certainly better than land lines.

Like IRAs, I think vacations are a product of our affluent society. They're nice, and there's nothing wrong with a vacation. But if a vacation ever prevented me from being generous to the church or the poor & needy for more than a short period, I'd think twice before taking it. Here's another interesting point a Major told me when I was in AF ROTC in college: people will spend weeks and months planning a vacation, saving for it, and getting everything lined up; and those same people will just drift along in their career with no planning or preparation whatsoever. I think the same is true of our spiritual lives; frequently we just drift along doing the bare minimum without any plans to improve, but that's not what God desires from us. He wants our whole heart. How can we plan to improve? If I want to develop a generous heart but don't have the funds to do it now, I could plan over the next few years to increase my giving every time I get a pay raise. So if I get a 5% raise, I could increase my giving by 1% or 2% and still have a 3% or 4% increase. If tv sucks too much of your time (as it did with me), commit to not picking up new shows when your old favorites are discontinued; soon you'll have ample "free" time in the evenings to read your Bible, contemplate scripture, help at a nursing home, or do something else constructive.

So I'm not suggesting we spend less time, money, or effort on vacations; I'm suggesting it would be better to pour that same kind of time, money, and effort into our spiritual lives.
.

Adomnan said...

Grubb: But you said retirement was a valid idea in Greek & Roman times when you agreed with CrimsonCatholic; remember this

Adomnan: They had the concept of leisure, of course. What I meant is that they didn't have a social mechanism enabling ordinary people to aspire to a life of leisure, as with today's paid retirement. Only the rich could afford a life of leisure then.

So it was leisure they valued. "Retirement" in our sense didn't exist.

Jesus agreed with the Greeks and Romans on the value of leisure.

You seem to be want to find in the Bible a precedent for modern retirement (i.e., people regularly setting aside some of their income in anticipation of retiring). That's what they didn't have back then.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hearkening back to Adomnan's first post in this thread about imputation, I think an argument can be made that there is a true element of imputation in Scripture. I have on my site a post from the argument of Dr. Kenneth Howell: former Presbyterian:

Trent Doesn't Necessarily Exclude All Variants of Imputation

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/05/trent-doesnt-necessarily-exclude-all.html

He states, for example:

"Trent . . . only denies that justification consists solely in imputation. The relevant canons are numbers 9, 10, 11 . . .

"I am puzzled why anyone would say that extrinsic righteousness might be excluded by Trent. The only righteousness that justifies is Christ's. But Catholic theology teaches that what is Christ's becomes ours by grace. In fact Canon 10 anathematizes anyone who denies that we can be justified without Christ's righteousness or anyone who says that we are formally justified by that righteousness alone. Here's the words:

'If anyone says that men are justified without Christ's righteousness which he merited for us or that they are formally justified by it itself [i.e. righteousness] [per eam ipsam], let him be anathema.'

Canon 10 says that Christ's righteousness is both necessary and not limited to imputation i.e. formally. So, imputation is not excluded but only said to be not sufficient.

"With regard to imputation, if Trent indeed excludes it, I am ready to reject it. But the wording of the decrees does not seem to me to require this. . . .

"There is another reason why I think imputation is not totally excluded but is acceptable in a modified form. Canon 9 rejects sola fide but, as we know, Trent does not reject faith as essential to justification. It only rejects the reductionism implied in the sola. So also, canon 11 rejects sola imputatione justitiae Christi and sola peccatorum remissione. Surely Trent includes remission of sins in justification. Why would we not say then that it also includes imputation of Christ's righteousness? If faith (canon 9) and remission of sins (canon 11) are essential to justification, then should we not also say that imputation of Christ's righteousness is also necessary? Indeed, it seems to me that this is precisely what is being emphasized in requirement for sacramental absolution in chapter 14.

"What is wrong with the Reformation view then? It is the sola part. Faith is essential but not sola fide. Remission of sins is essential but not sola remissione. Imputation via absolution is essential but not sola imputatione. . . .

"There is no doubt that the Protestant theory of legal fiction is just that, a fiction. That must be rejected. But the declarative side of justification does not need to be thrown out completely."

Dave Armstrong said...

With the previous info. in mind, I think we can find instances of Christ's righteousness in Scripture, with the implication that it is applied to us in some sense when we are justified (and eschatologically saved):

[RSV]

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. . . .

Romans 5:17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption

Philippians 1:11 filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Dave Armstrong said...

Also:

Romans 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Dave Armstrong said...

The flip side of this is God's NOT imputing OUR sins and trespasses against us:

Psalm 32:1-2 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. [2] Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Romans 4:6-8 So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: [7] "Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; [8] blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin."

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Dave Armstrong said...

The Catholic Encyclopedia ("Sanctifying Grace") states about biblical justification:

". . . there is mention of passing to a new life (Eph., ii, 5; Col., ii, 13; I John, iii, 14); renovation in spirit (Eph., iv, 23 sq.); supernatural likeness to God (Rom., viii, 29; II Cor., iii, 18; II Pet., i, 4) a new creation (II Cor., v, 17; Gal., vi, 15); rebirth in God (John, iii, 5; Tit., iii, 5; James, i, 18), etc., all of which designations not only imply a setting aside of sin, but express as well a permanent state of holiness. All of these terms express not an aid to action, but rather a form of being; and this appears also from the fact that the grace of justification is described as being "poured forth in our hearts" (Rom., v, 5); as "the spirit of adoption of sons" of God (Rom., viii, 15); as the "spirit, born of the spirit" (John, iii, 6); making us "conformable to the image of the Son" (Rom., viii, 28); as a participation in the Divine nature (II Pet., i, 4); the abiding seed in us (I John, iii, 9), and so on. As regards the tradition of the Church, even Harnack admits that St. Augustine faithfully reproduces the teaching of St. Paul. Hence the Council of Trent need not go back to St. Paul, but only to St. Augustine, for the purpose of demonstrating that the Protestant theory of imputation is at once against St. Paul and St. Augustine."

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_%281913%29/Sanctifying_Grace

Dave Armstrong said...

The same article notes about "non-imputation":

". . . the Biblical expressions: "blotting out" as applied to sin (Ps., 1, 3; Is., xliii, 25; xliv, 22; Acts, iii, 19), "exhausting" (Heb., ix, 28), "taking away" [II Kings, xii, 13; I Par., xxi, 8; Mich., vii, 18; Ps. x (Heb.), 15; cii, 12], cannot be reconciled with the idea of a mere covering up of sin which is supposed to continue its existence in a covert manner. Other Biblical expressions are just as irreconcilable with this Lutheran idea, for instance, the expression of "cleansing" and "washing away" the mire of sin (Ps., 1, 4, 9; Is., i, 18; Ezech., xxxvi, 25; I Cor., vi 11; Apoc., i, 5), that of coming "from death to life" (Col. ii., 13; I John, iii, 14); the removal from darkness to light (Eph., v, 9). Especially these latter expressions are significant, because they characterize the justification as a movement from one thing to another which is directly contrary or opposed to the thing from which the movement is made. The opposites, black and white, night and day, darkness and light, life and death, have this peculiarity, that the presence of one means the extinction of its opposite. Just as the sun dispels all darkness, so does the advent of justifying grace drive away sin, which ceases from that on to have an existence at least in the ethical order of things, though in the knowledge of God it may have a shadowy kind of existence as something which once was, but has ceased to be. . . .

"Where in the Bible the expressions "covering up" and "not imputing" sin occur, as for instance in Ps. xxxi, 1 sq., they must be interpreted in accordance with the Divine perfections, for it is repugnant that God should declare any one free from sin to whom sin is still actually cleaving. It is one of God's attributes always to substantiate His declarations; if He covers sin and does not impute it, this can only be effected by an utter extinction or blotting out of the sin. Tradition also has always taught this view of the forgiveness of sins."

Adomnan said...

Dr. Howell: I am puzzled why anyone would say that extrinsic righteousness might be excluded by Trent.

Adomnan: We say it for a number of reasons:

1) Someone whose sins are forgiven can said to be righteous, if he has repented and put his sin behind him. However, that is not an "extrinsic righteousness" because repentance is not "outside" the former sinner; i.e., if he has not truly repented and embarked on a new life, then there is no righteousness.

2) Beyond the forgiveness of sins, the New Testament tells us that God bestows a righteousness on us that does not just consist of forgiveness. This "righteousness from God in Christ," as Paul calls it in Philippians, is, of course, not "extrinsic" to us either, but is rather a righteousness infused into our souls. No Catholic would dispute this.

3) More generally, the Bible makes no distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic righteousness. This is a distinction that Protestants invented. There is no reason for Catholics to adopt Protestant categories that are neither biblical nor patristic.

In fact, the Church rejected a concept of double justification advanced by some Catholics in the 16th century who sought to conciliate the Protestants (e.g., Cardinal Contarini). These figures proposed two kinds of righteousness in the justified person: his intrinsic righteousness and an extrinsic righteousness of Christ that was imputed to him. Dr. Howell appears to be trying to resurrect this idea.

Dr. Howell, quoting Canon 10 of the Council of Trent:

'If anyone says that men are justified without Christ's righteousness which he merited for us or that they are formally justified by it itself [i.e. righteousness] [per eam ipsam], let him be anathema.'

Adomnan: Actually, Dr. Howell is working from an incorrect translation of Canon 10, or else a word has been left out inadvertently. Here is a more accurate translation:

CANON X.-If any one says, that men are just without the justice of Christ, by which He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.

So, the canon does not condemn those who say "men are justified without Christ's righteousness which he merited for us." Rather, it condemns those who say "men are justified without Christ's righteousness, BY which he merited for us, etc."

This may be a reference to 2 Peter 1:1, the only place in the Bible where Christ's righteousness is mentioned:

"Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by means of the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ."

Neither Peter nor Canon 10 is saying that there is a righteousnss Christ merited or that He imputes/imparts this personal (and/or acquired) righteousness to us, but rather that He brought us justification by His saving righteousness; that is, by His life, His sacrifice and His resurrection. In the context of 2 Peter this saving righteousness is an act (or series of acts) by which our salvation is achieved. It is not a personal quality, like acquired or inherent justice.

Adomnan said...

Dr. Howell: So also, canon 11 rejects sola imputatione justitiae Christi and sola peccatorum remissione. Surely Trent includes remission of sins in justification. Why would we not say then that it also includes imputation of Christ's righteousness?

Adomnan: I will concede that, if one were to take Canon 11 in isolation, it does not exclude imputation of Christ's righteousness. It excludes only "sole imputation," as Dr. Howell infers.

I'm not sure why the Council didn't leave the "sola" out and just condemn "imputatio justitiae Christi" flat out. I suspect that it is because the anathema seeks to cite the heretics' actual words for condemnation where possible, and Luther and other heretics had written that one is justified "sola imputatione justitiae Christi."

In any event, as I mentioned before, the Church rejected double justification when it was put forward by some Catholics, before and during the Council. Therefore, I cannot agree with Dr. Howell that the ambiguous wording of Canon 11 actually leaves room for a theory of double justification.

Dr. Howell: Indeed, it seems to me that this is precisely what is being emphasized in requirement for sacramental absolution in chapter 14.

Adomnan: I don't see any allusions to an imputation of Christ's righteousness in chapter 14.

The fact is that the Council never mentions the imputation of Christ's righteousness outside of Canon 11. If the Council fathers held that there was a double justification (extrinsic and intrinsic), they would have said so plainly somewhere in the Decree, not just hinted at it obliquely in an anathema.

Dr. Howell: The declarative side of justification does not need to be thrown out completely.

Adomnan: The verb "justify" does indeed have a legal declarative sense, as acquittal, in Paul, but only in the context of final justification, when God as Judge will declare the redeemed "justified" as "doers of the Law" (Rom 2:13: "...the doers of the Law will be justified." However, this doesn't imply that there is any imputation of Christ's righteousness to anybody. When God declares a person righteous, according to the Bible, it's because he's a "doer of the Law" or because he has faith, not because someone else's righteousness has been credited to him.

Adomnan said...

Dave: With the previous info. in mind, I think we can find instances of Christ's righteousness in Scripture, with the implication that it is applied to us in some sense when we are justified (and eschatologically saved).

Adomnan: It seems to me that all of the examples you give here concern either the "righteousness of God" or a righteousness that is from God and imparted to us in or through Jesus Christ.

Neither of these concepts is the same as Christ's righteousness, which is never mentioned by St. Paul. The righteousness of Christ is alluded to in 2 Peter 1:1, but there it refers to Christ's saving activity on our behalf, not to a righteousness that he possesses or acquires.

The definition of "the righteousness of God" is God's fidelity (and so righteousness) to His promise to redeem the nations through Abraham. It is God showing Himself to be righteous by faithfulness to His promise. Thus, it has nothing to do with a righteousness that is communicated to us. Paul does speak of such a communicated righteousness, but he never calls it "the righteousness of God." He's quite consistent in his use of this expression. In Phil 3:9, for example, when Paul is speaking of a righteousness that is communicated to us, he calls it "the righteousness FROM God, based on faith." It's not the "righteousness of God" (dikaiosune theou), but "the righteousness from God" (dikaiosune ek theou). To repeat, the phrase "righteousness of God" is used by Paul only to refer to God's faithfulness to His promises.

Adomnan said...

Given those preliminaries, I'll comment briefly on the Bible passages you cited, Dave:

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. . . .

This "righteousness of God" is His faithfulness to His promise to redeem the gentiles through the progeny of Abraham. It is "revealed," as Paul wrote in Rom 3:22, and is fulfilled through faith in Christ and Christ's saving action. This is not a righteousness that is imparted but rather revealed.

Romans 5:17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Adomnan: This does refer to a righteousness that is imparted to us (a "gift"), but it is not the personal righteousness of Christ, even though it comes through Him.

1 Corinthians 1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Adomnan: God made Christ our righteousness. He did not make Christ's righteousness our righteousness. This verse ontradicts any idea of imputation.

Philippians 1:11 filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Adomnan: Yes, the fruits of righteousness come through Jesus Christ, but these fruits of course are not His personal status of righteousness.

Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

Adomnan: I believe this is actually an unfortunate translation of Phil 3:9 because it implies that there is a contrast between "my own righteousness" and "the righteousness that is through faith in Christ."

A more accurate translation of the Greek grammaer would be "and be found in him, not having as my righteousness one that is based on law but one that is through faith, etc." Paul describes both kinds of righteousness as potentially "his own." There is no contrast between "my own righteousness" and "an alien righteousness." I point this out because some Protestants -- the Elizabethan Anglican Hooker comes to mind -- have used this verse, wrongly, as their chief prooftext in trying to establish that there is an "alien" righteousness of Christ that must be "imputed" to us.

The Jerusalem Bible captures the meaning of Phil 3:9 in the way I have described it: "and be given a place in Him, with the uprighteousness I have gained not from the Law, but from faith in Christ."

Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Adomnan: I've already discussed this. This is the only verse in the Bible that refers explicitly to the righteousness of Christ.

Romans 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.

Adomnan: Imparted (infused) righteousness, but no "righteousness of Christ."

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Adomnan: If the "righteousness of God" here were a reference to the righteousness God gives to us, then this would be the one instance in the NT where this expression differs from the meaning Paul gives to it elsewhere; i.e., "God's faithfulness to His promises."

However, I agree with Bishop N. T. Wright that the "we" in this passage is not "we Christians," but is rather a reference to Paul and his co-missionaries, the same "we" as in 2 Cor 5:20: "We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though Christ were urging you through us, etc." In light of this understanding of "we", the phrase "we might become the righteousness of God" means "we might help realize God's faithfulness to His promise by preaching to you gentiles."

I agree with your observations about the "non-imputation of sin."

Dave Armstrong said...

You have answered well and thoughtfully as usual, Adomnan. The discussion on this is so involved and nuanced on many levels, that I'll have to pass for the time being on continuing it; perhaps indefinitely.

My father is again gravely ill (lung cancer and complications) and they are saying he probably only has a few more days to live. So as you'd expect, that is consuming most of my time and energy right now.

Adomnan said...

I'm so very sorry to hear about your father's illness, Dave. I'll pray for him, for you, for your mother and for your whole family.

"My father's house has many mansions."

"To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Adomnan,

I am sorry I have not kept up with this thread due to not having that solid chunk of time to address it all. It grew pretty large. Thank you for your responses none the less.

To 'catch up' I'd have to summarize my response:

1) The issue of "customs" does lean towards 'rites', as does the Gentile prohibitions of Acts 15. The issue of 'porneia' is not likely fornication in general but rather certain legal aspects (as I already agreed). However, even if it just refers to degrees of 'incest', the point stands that incest is still a 'moral' issue and apart from a legal code cannot adequately be defined. As to "though shalt not kill" not referring to customs, I'd say yes and no to that (because the Ten Commandments are a uniquely Jewish Code). How one kills, commits adultery, steals, etc are all detailed in legal form in the Torah (which isn't as complete as Christ's New High Standards of Mat 5-7).

2) You said: "It is the "letter" of the Law that Jews observe when they observe rites and customs, like circumcision. It is the dikaiomata that they and we observe when we keep the Law's just requirements."
I disagree with this. The righteous requirements of the law include circumcision, but it is done by the Spirit and instead of having a written code the Spirit writes the truest expression on the heart (Rom 2:29). The "letter" refers to the written code, the Torah. In that full context, Rom 2:17-3:8, the law is the Torah and Paul is especially is speaking of the Judaizer hypocrits who own the law but are breaking moral requirements of the law (2:17-24). Circumcision and keeping moral requirements go hand in hand for Paul here. Paul is not faulting them for keeping rites apart from morals, but rather for disobeying what the 'written letter'/law says. In 2:15, the Gentiles "do not have the law" but none the less "do what the law requires," meaning they lack the written code but obey the essence of the written code. It's like an illiterate man obeying the commandments from what he does know, despite the fact he can't read the Bible, contrasted to a Bible scholar who lives in sin.

3) You said: "When did I EVER say, imply or insinuate that "the Law" applies to a "subset" of the Torah? Haven't I agreed with you on this over and over? How many more times will I have to repeat this fact?"

I'm not trying to aggravate you here. The problem is that your argument doesn't fit then because (as I originally pointed out) places like Acts 13:39 and Acts 15:5 say: "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."
NOW, since we both agree the "law of Moses" is not a subset (ie more than just rites) of the Law but rather the WHOLE Law, this is explicit proof the Judaizers were not limiting themselves to a subset of the Law. Their demand was "circumcised and obey the WHOLE Law," but this doesn't fit YOUR idea that Paul was ONLY attacking a subset (ie circumcision and rites).


(cont)

Nick said...

4) You said: "If I say that baptism has value if you keep your baptismal promises, does that means that I'm saying "keeping your bapstismal promises" is a sacrament like baptism? I think not."

That's not what I'm saying either. The problem here is that you're not realizing the analogy of "keep baptismal promises" (ALL Church teaching) corresponds to "keep the whole mosaic law" (not just a subset). So when he says "Circumcision has value if you obey the law" he is speaking of obeying the whole law, just as if he were saying "Baptism has value if and only if you obey ALL Church teaching." For Paul to then be worried about whether a subset of the Law saves, when he just showed one is bound to the whole law, is illogical. You have Paul focusing attention on ceremonial when all the while he's mentioning moral.
Further, when Paul says "you cannot be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39), he is saying the same thing when he says "no man will be justified by works of the Law" (Rom 3:20). It makes no sense for Paul to say the whole law cannot justify and then shift the discussion to saying only a subset wont justify.


5) I said last: "Paul contrasts the whole Law as a imperfect and temporary covenant to the perfect and eternal new covenant."
You responded: "True, but irrelevant to our discussion. Has nothing to do with the definition of "works of the Law.""

I say it's very relevant to our discussion! If the Whole Law is 'deficient', why would Paul focus on only a subset of it, as if that changes the overall picture? If Paul is an architect and he says the old house is built on a crumbling foundation, it makes no sense to devote his time discussing the brand of nails used to build it.


6) You said: “Your point that the moral precepts of the Law were superceded by higher moral demands is intersting and has a lot of validity. Nevertheless, it remains true that works of the Law do not include moral precepts. I'll demonstrate this by a reductio ad absurdum.
Let us suppose, as you do, that "works of the Law" encompass everything the Jewish Law commands.
Both Jesus and Paul say the Jewish Law commands us to love God and our neighbor. Therefore, by your definition, "loving God and loving your neighbor" are "works of the Law."
Okay, Paul says in Romans 3:20 "No one will be justified before God by works of the Law." Given that loving God and loving our neighbor are works of the Law, again by your definition, then Paul's statement would clearly imply, "No one will be justified before God by loving God and loving his neighbor."

This fails for the simple fact that “loving God and neighbor” under the Law was understood in an inferior sense to how Christ demanded it. For example, under the law you could love God and neighbor while divorcing your wife, while such is anathema under Christ (Mk 10:2-12). Thus, your reductio is (unintentionally) founded upon an equivocation and (unintentional) caricature of my position. Another analogy: If being upright British citizen (eg being charitable your neighbor) wins you recognition by the Queen of England, it does not entail being an upright American citizen (eg being charitable your neighbor) wins you recognition by the Queen of England. Why? Because there are two jurisdictions in play here.

Nick said...

Adomnan: In Rom 2, Paul calls the moral commands of the Torah "righteous requirements," and he expects Christians to fulfill them. I don't see the radical cleavage you posit between the Torah's righteous requirements and the law of Christ. It's true that Christ taught a higher morality in some respects than did Moses, but both He and Paul thought of this new law as a development of what was best (and what was universal) in the Mosaic law, not as a repudiation of the old law.

Nick: You can't have it both ways. Either the demands of Christ are superior than that Moses or they are not. If they are, then there is not a full harmony with the Torah's moral demands and that of Christ, and thus Paul looking to the Torah's moral demands is wrong. Rom 2:29 shows it's only the fulfilled law by circumcision of the heart by the Spirit that saves, not done by hands, so yes there is a 'radical cleavage'.

Adomnan: Actually, I disagree. Well, I do agree that the curse in Galatians 3 doesn't apply to gentiles who aren't under the Law. But I also believe it doesn't apply to Jews. To whom, then, does it apply? Well, to the readers of Paul's letter; i.e., to those gentiles in Galatia who were "God-fearers" before their conversion to Christianity.

Nick: Hmm, that doesn't fit the plain reading of the text. It's those under the Law who are subject to the curse, and this is solidly confirmed by the fact Paul directly quotes Deut 27:26 - which is also the conclusion of a long list of MORAL demands on the Jews.


Adomnan: Well, to be precise, these semi-Jewish "God-fearing" Galatians were not "cursed" yet, because they weren't yet under the Law. But they would be cursed, according to Paul, as soon as they bound themselves to the Law through circumcision.

Nick: This confirms my point then, the curse applies to Jews only. And, further, to breaking of moral commands only under Mosaic jurisdiction. For Paul to then shift the discussion over to keeping rites or not, when the real issue is being cursed - again curse applies to being under jurisdiction and moral teachings - is not a reasonable argument.

Adomnan: Your position is surprisingly antinomian, almost Valentinian.

Nick: There is nothing antinomian about it. When the Pilgrims fled to America and were no longer under English Law, did that make them antinomian? No. Just like the abolition of the Mosaic Law didn't equate to antinominaism.

Adomnan: However, the moral demands of the Law remain in force, sometimes strengthened or modified, but not cast aside as obsolete.

Nick: This fails by the simple fact the whole Law is abolished, it makes no sense to say only part is abolished, nor does it make sense in light of the fact the "curse" applies to breaking moral demands. When Paul says we are no longer under the Law, that means the whole thing.

Adomnan: It seems clear to me that Paul regards the moral commands of the Torah still to be fully in force.

Nick: No. He says nothing of the sort. He says the "fulfilled law" is what counts, which is what only comes in Christ and which the Law was only a shadow of. The circumcision of the heart by the Spirit is a prime example of the fulfilled law, to which the shadow (Old Law) couldn't stand up to.


Adomnan: By the way, you seem to be implying that someone could do all that the Jewish Law commanded and yet remain unjustified, because he was under the wrong "jurisdiction."

Nick: That's the plain teaching of Acts 13:39. If a Jew ever was justified, it would be apart from the Law in the sense the justification would come from the overlapping law of Christ, not the law of Moses. As an example, we are bound both to Federal Law and State Law, so while the Federal Law (Christ) can justify, the State Law (Mosaic) cannot.

Adoman: Paul wasn't concerned about jurisdictional issues, and neither was Jesus.

Nick: I strongly disagree, for that goes against the plain reading of Gal 4:24-26 (among other places).

Nick said...

Dave,

I am embarrassed that I didn't pause from that flurry of posts I just made to stop and reflect and pray for you and your family and the sad situation you are in. I shall do so now.

Dave Armstrong said...

No problem, Nick. Thanks. I want things to keep proceeding along. The "regular routine" helps.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Armstrong said...

Unfortunately, it looks like a pretty funky scan.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Armstrong said...

Interesting. Thanks for that advice!

Adomnan said...

Nick,

I have taken a long time to respond to your most recent posts. I will do so soon, but with some reluctance. As you may well be glad to hear, I think I am approaching the end of my willingness to engage in this discussion. You've been very patient with me and thoughtful in your responses, but you just don't get what I'm trying to say -- simple as I think it is -- and I probably shouldn't tax your patience further by repeating myself.

There is something about St. Paul's way of putting things that makes it virtually impossible for most people fully to understand him. Personally, I find his writing clear and straightforward once the context is known and allowance made for the "rabbinic" style he occasionally uses. However, I have come to see that, for most people, the gap between Paul's conceptual world and ours is too great ever to be bridged. As a consequence, because people can't grasp what he was actually saying, they are able to read into Paul whatever they care to.

It's ironic that an author whom the "Reformers" called "perspicuous" turns out to be nearly incomprehensible to the overwhelmingly majority of Christians (at least on some major points), but that's the way it is. I would go so far as to say there has not been another writer in the history of the world whose words have borne so many and such contradictory interpretations, which would make Paul the least "perspicuous" writer who ever existed, objectively speaking.

I smiled when I read a remark that Luther made about the attitude his fellow monks had towards Romans: "They used to believe that the Epistle to the Romans contained some controversies about matters of Paul’s day and was of no use for our age."

Those wise monks were absolutely right! It was Luther's delusion that Romans was written to address his personal spiritual neurosis that led him so thoroughly to misconstrue the Apostle and so usher in the "fabulous, formless darkness" of Protestantism. Romans dealt primarily with a problem, Judaizing Christianity, that Paul resolved in his own time and that is in fact "of no use for our age," except as information about the early history of Christianity and its relationship to Judaism for those who might be interested in these matters.

Be that as it may. In the course of the next day or two, I will respond to your most recent comments on "works of the Law" and other Pauline concepts.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Hello, Dave,

I've been searching a vast (32 GB)database of historical, mainly Protestant, apologetics I got from prof Tim McGrew in June 2009.

So far, these two books seem to me as the best evidential critique of RCC I know of:

1. Faber's Difficulties of Romanism (see http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=faber%20difficulties%20of%20romanism )

2. Robins' Whole Evidence against the Claim of the Roman Church (http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=sanderson%20robins%20whole%20evidence )

Have you ever read any of these old books? Would you have any (general) tips how to address them?

Thank you very much.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Vlastimil,

Interesting.

I've read neither (nor had I heard of them). They seem to be historically important, though.

Generally speaking, I answer all charges whatever against Catholicism by appealing to biblical data (my specialty) and arguing that history is invariably in our favor, if we go back to the early Church, and decidedly against a Protestant interpretation. Historical analysis must include argument about development of doctrine (almost always poorly understood and caricatured by our opponents).

I noticed that in the link you gave for Faber, there are works in reply by Trevern and Husenbeth. I'm sure they will take the approach I have described.

Your second link didn't work, but I'm sure the nature of the argument will probably be basically the same as always: claims that we add to the Bible and corrupt rather than develop doctrine. Scripture and argument from development of doctrine and the Fathers is the way to defeat all this, and handily so, because history is very much on our side.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

Thanks, Dave.

First, I like the photos you uploaded recently (the wedding etc.).

Now, the 2nd book is downloadable here: http://www.archive.org/details/a606601400robiuoft

I did not notice the answers to the 1st one!

So far, I haven't found any special answers to the 2nd one.

But both of them, as I remember, claim that the Fathers constitute, in fact, evidence against the RCC.

I'll have to check out your book on the development of the RC doctrine.

Dave Armstrong said...

But both of them, as I remember, claim that the Fathers constitute, in fact, evidence against the RCC.

Then they will clearly be shallow historical analyses, to take that position. It is the fathers who, above all, confirm the truth of Catholicism. Protestants don't have a prayer if that stake their claim on patristics.

We need merely produce the documentation from the fathers, and bring in the analysis of development, too. I have books on both development and patristic evidences.

Vlastimil Vohánka said...

I guess you are right.

There is some analogy btw infidels and Protestants. Infidels accuse Christians that their claims are crazy and improbable on the available evidence. Similarly the Protestants wrt the Catholics.

Yesterday I noticed that Dr Mozley in his 19th century book-length critique, also available at archives.org, of the Essay on the Development of Christian Docterine by J. H. Newman wrote that Protestantism often has the advantage of defending thiner body of claims than Catholicism. Thus it has smaller chance to be wrong. This is similar to the sceptical critique of religious creeds on the basis of the so called principle of dwindling probabilities.


The idea has been, ironically, made widely known by Alvin Plantinga who wrote a probabilistic critique of historical arguments for the kernel of Christianity in his Warranted Christian Belief. It is based on the fact that, generally, the more complex a conjunction, the lower its probability. The main replies were the following. (1) The probability that every argument for Christianity fails can be low (J. Colwell). (2) Even if Christianity is less probable than its proper propositional parts, it can be still be probable, whether on the same or on some enhanced body of evidence (R. Swinburne, the McGrews). Finally, (3) there have been detailed probabilistic arguments for Christianity yielding results significantly different from Plantinga’s cursory estimates (Swinburne, the McGrews).