Discussion in 'Theology and Doctrine' started by Aidan, Nov 30, 2017.
Ah, the conciliar church.
So, where does the Catholic Church admit it was wrong?
The normal way they begin is 'the Church has always taught ... ' which is makes it kind of hard to then begin 'the Church has always taught ...' if the first ... is not the same as the second ...
Properly understood, it poses no problem.
Depending upon what's in the heart of the reader
No. The facts are facts regardless of what people feel about them. How does James illustrate his point? I assume you are talking about James 2:24, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." He demonstrates this point by pointing to Abraham, and how in his greatest leap of faith, his attempted sacrifice of Isaac his son and heir, "the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God." (James 2:23). This is merely one verse before 24! How else is it used in Scripture is what we should ask next (because before we give our own treatment of Scripture, we should look to see if Scripture has also interpreted it for us). Other then Genesis 15:6, its original usage, it used two other times in the New Testament: Romans 4:3 and Galatians 3:6. And what point does Paul make in these passages? In Romans 4, it is unambiguously speaking of Abraham having his sins forgiven and righteousness imputed to him by faith, and not of works that he can boast in. In Galatians, we see Paul admonishing the Galatians for relying on works to save them without faith. When we look at all of this is the context of each other, James is in no way a stumbling block to Justification by Faith.
Also remember that Abraham was accounted righteousness for his faith when God promised him a son in Genesis 15:6. Shuffle a few chapters (and years) to Genesis 22, after the promised son is born and then God tests Abraham's faith through his faithful obedience to God. Abraham's work demonstrated his trust (faith, pistis) and St. James notes Abraham's faith is not a dead faith due to his work of obeying God's command to sacrifice his son.
Indeed, James 2:22 notes "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?". This act of faith fulfilled the faith first accounted to Abraham in Genesis 15:6 as James notes in 2:23: "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God."
The Homily of True and Lively Faith in part three: "Well may we bear the name of Christian men, but we do lack the true faith that belongs thereto: for true faith ever brings forth good works, as St. James says: Show me thy faith by thy deeds (James 2.18)."
In part two the same Homily states faith "made Abraham to forsake his Country, and all his friends, and to go into a far Country, there to dwell among strangers." Additionally, "This faith made Abraham ready at God's commandment, to offer his own son and heir Isaac, whom he loved so well, and by whom he was promised to have innumerable issue, among the which, one should be borne, in whom all nations should be blessed, trusting so much in God, that though he were slain, yet that God was able by his omnipotent power to raise him from death, and perform his promise (Genesis 22.1-18, 26.1-35, Sirach 44.20). He mistrusted not the promise of God, although unto his reason everything seemed contrary. He believed verily that God would not forsake him in death and famine that was in the country."
The Anglican understanding?
True, a lot of Anglicans have distorted ideas on justification by faith.
Conversations like these are great opportunities to consider our growing collection of Anglican classics, and especially the teaching of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes upon the subject of justification:
The good Bishop expounds this teaching neither from St. Paul nor from St. James but from the Old Testament, which I gather would be quite fruitful an exercise to consider how he's done it, considering how rarely the Old Testament teachings on justification are taught on today. Enjoy!
The Epistle of James poses no problem to the Anglican understanding, and in fact confirms it. I and @anawkwardaardvark expound a bit on this up the thread.
When looking at what 'justification by faith alone' means, I find it helpful to look at how it was first defined. Martin Luther, of course, was the champion of this phrase. So what did he and his followers mean by it? Fortunately, the Book of Concord summarizes what the Lutheran doctrine is and is not in its Epitome Section III:
I see this as very wholesome and can find no wrong in it. I think it mirrors the classical Anglican understanding of sola fide very well.
"We believe, teach, and confess that, although the contrition that precedes, and the good works that follow, do not belong to the article of justification before God, yet one is not to imagine a faith of such a kind as can exist and abide with, and alongside of, a wicked intention to sin and to act against the conscience. But after man has been justified by faith, then a true living faith worketh by love, Gal. 5:6, so that thus good works always follow justifying faith, and are surely found with it, if it be true and living; for it never is alone, but always has with it love and hope."
The best way to explain justification by faith is probably this:
I believe in prevenient grace, in that God sends forth an invitation to know him (who are limited in our human understanding to have faith otherwise) to be able to choose him and to accept his salvation, which then invokes the Holy Spirit into our lives like a spell. Thing is, it's certainly not witchcraft but simply God's spirit that enters us if we were sincere about that confession and everything it entails. The Anglican devotional writer and hymnist, Frances Ridley Havergal once mentioned how God would surely keep his promise to everything we ask for, provided it is Godly, and salvation is definitely something God wants for all of us. The only time we do not get a response is because we were not sincere, or we asked for something not Godly, or that it simply hasn't come to pass yet. Basically, if you've ever seen movies or read stories where someone makes a wish or has some charm or whatever, then they are dumbfounded why nothing happens in an instant, until things start happening all around them. This is how the Holy Spirit works in us if we genuinely received it. There are various kinds of evidence that begins to show, and then you have sanctification, which is the purification process and what I believe is being described in the passages that Roman Catholics claim teach purgatory. That's the intermediate state. It's a lifelong process provided you did the confession sincerely and by all points proscribed.
Now, when it comes to good works, people have different capacities to give or do what, by our standards, are 'good works'. Then there are more outstanding works that are more miraculous and usually only done by people who have the Holy Spirit in them. This separates general, secular humanist charity and the more exceptional charity aided by the Holy Spirit.
Also, the idea of sainthood as taught by the RCC and Orthodox always requires some kind of public approval by someone, in their case the Church itself. People, however, with genuine faith in God, don't necessarily need the Church's approval or praise for their works to have been considered important in the eyes of God. There are works, both big and small, that we do for ourselves, and those that we do for God when he puts it on our conscience to obey. In the latter cases, even smaller works can cause a big reaction in the world around us, simply if God asks us to do them and works his miraculous power in them, even if no one else remembers us or recognizes where it came from. God does, though, so we shouldn't be too stressed about whether the 'smaller' works matter or not.
I do believe God allows some people public recognition of their work for him as an example, but I also believe there are many good people who've done important work that have never been acknowledged as much, and were probably just as good, but God nods to them. Both of these types of ministers have complimentary roles in the kingdom of God.